Lifestyle can prevent diabetes…maybe

From San Antonio, Texas, at the 60th annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association

A study of Finnish adults at high risk for type II diabetes shows that losing as little as 10 pounds, boosting exercise, and making dietary changes reduced the chance of developing diabetes by about 60 percent. This is one of the first studies to show that lifestyle changes can ward off the disease.

“This should be very encouraging news,” says Jaakko Tuomilehto of the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki.

For 2 to 6 years, researchers followed 522 Finns who were all overweight and showed impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that can lead to diabetes. Half received intensive instruction from a dietician in sessions at least once every 3 months and from fitness professionals at a health club to which participants got free memberships. Those participants developed diabetes less often than did people in the other half of the group, who received advice about the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise but not periodic instruction.

Another study, lasting 6 years, tracked 188 people at high risk of diabetes and failed to find any effect of lifestyle interventions on the progression of disease. Researchers at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes in Oxford, England, gave half the participants general advice on diet and exercise and the other half individualized recommendations.

“Our intervention was low cost, simple to impose on people, and practical . . . but it had no effect,” says study coauthor Rury Holman. The Finnish group “has proof of concept,” he says, but the Oxford findings suggest that significant lifestyle change is unlikely without extensive, expensive intervention.

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