Small Lifestyle Changes Found to Prevent Diabetes
Patients who are at a high risk of diabetes can reduce their chances of developing the disease by 58% with an individualized, targeted diet and exercise plan, according to research appearing in today's New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from Finland's National Public Health Institute conducted a randomized trial involving 522 middle-aged, overweight adults with impaired glucose tolerance -- also called high blood sugar, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes -- and assigned them to either an intervention or control group, with a mean follow-up of 3.2 years. Members of the control group were offered general information about diet and exercise during annual doctor visits, and patients in the intervention group received targeted, ongoing guidance on nutrition and exercise. Over the course of the trial, diabetes was diagnosed in 27 intervention patients, compared with 59 controls; per year, the average proportion of subjects in whom glucose intolerance progressed to diabetes was 3% and 6%, respectively. The lower cumulative incidence of diabetes in the intervention versus the control groups was statistically significant after two years, at 6% and 14%, respectively, and after four years, at 11% and 23%. The authors conclude that their study "provides evidence that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by changes in the lifestyles of both women and men at high risk for the disease" and suggest that despite common perception, their "reasonably low dropout rate ... indicates that subjects with impaired glucose tolerance are willing and able to participate in a demanding intervention program if it is made available to them" (Tuomilehto et al New England Journal of Medicine, 5/3). Study author Jaakko Tuomilehto said, "The changes that were required to prevent diabetes were not drastic -- they were just modest. If a person managed to change both diet and exercise, reduce calorie intake and change quality of diet, then the effect was the best. But whatever single thing they could do also helped" (Hayasaki, Los Angeles Times, 5/3).