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Lifestyle is Better than Medicine at Preventing Diabetes

Posted Nov 25 2009 6:48pm


Approximately 24 million people have diabetes mellitus (DM) and 57 million are at risk of developing it.  The increased risk is due to the fact that more and more people are overweight/obese and thus have impaired blood sugar control.

A recent study published in The Lancet followed 3,000 high-risk patients for 10 years.  The focus of this study was on preventing DM.  One third of the participants were told to eat a low fat diet and exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days/week.  The goal was a 7% weight reduction in one year.  The second 1/3 were given Metformin, a diabetes medication to control blood sugars.  The remaining 1/3 received no intervention.

 Many people in the lifestyle group met the weight reduction goal.  However, many also gained some of the weight back over time.  The good news was that their risk of developing DM was still the lowest of the 3 groups although there was some weight regained. 

 After 3 years, the incidence of DM was decreased by 58% in the lifestyle group and 31% in the Metformin group as compared to the group with no intervention.  After 10 years, the lifestyle group and the Metformin group had a decreased incidence of DM by 34% and 18% respectively.

 Lifestyle interventions delayed the onset of DM by 4 years and the Metformin delayed onset by 2 years.  The greatest benefit of lifestyle changes was seen in the 60 year old and above group.  The diet and exercise lowered their risk of developing DM by 50%!

These results emphasize the significant benefit of healthy lifestyle changes in preventing DM.  These simple measures should be incorporated into everyone’s daily life.


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