Lifestyle Changes Yield 43% Lower Diabetes Risk
EVEN AS EXPERTS are sounding
the alarm about a global
surge to 380 million diabetics,
7% of the world’s population,
by 2025—a new study offers hope that
simple lifestyle changes can reduce
your risk of joining that number.
According to Finnish research published
in The Lancet, even people at
high risk for type 2 diabetes can
improve their odds of escaping the disease
with weight loss, diet changes and
“From a public health point of
view,” said lead researcher Jaako
Tuomilehto, MD, of the National
Health Institute in Helsinki, “there is
an important message: An intensive
lifestyle intervention lasting for a limited
time can yield long-term benefits in
reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes.”
This extended followup of the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study
involved 172 men and 350 women,
all middle-aged, overweight and suffering
from impaired glucose tolerance.
Without intervention, roughly
half of all people with impaired glucose
tolerance develop diabetes within
10 years. The researchers randomly
divided subjects into an intervention
group, which received intensive diet
and exercise counseling over a fouryear
period, and a control group.
Goals for the intervention group
included weight loss, reduced intake
of total fat and saturated fat,
increased intake of dietary fiber, and
increased physical activity. At the end
of the intervention period, participants
who were still free of diabetes
were further followed up for an average
of three years.
The intervention program resulted
in sustained lifestyle changes and a reduction in type 2 diabetes incidence,
which remained even after the individual
lifestyle counseling was stopped.
The degree of risk reduction was related
to participants’ success in achieving
the intervention goals. Overall, during
the total followup period averaging
seven years, the intervention group saw
a 43% reduction in relative risk of diabetes.
Even during the post-intervention
followup, those who’d been counseled
about lifestyle changes showed a
36% reduction in relative risk.
Although lifestyle changes alone
can’t always prevent type 2 diabetes in
all high-risk individuals, Dr. Tuomilehto
added, improving weight and diet
and increasing physical activity can still
postpone the onset of the disease.