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Apr 25, 2014

Diet and Exercise Can Help Ward Off Diabetes

Diet and exercise helped some adults with prediabetes ward off the full-blown disease in a 23-year study.

Diet and exercise help adults with prediabetes ward off the full-blown disease, according to a Chinese study recently published in The Lancet.

The Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Study included 577 Chinese adults with prediabetes, a term used to describe people with higher-than-normal blood sugar but not high enough to be diagnosed with the full-blown disease. It’s estimated that 41 million people in the United States have prediabetes, which drastically increases risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.

After enrolling into the study in 1986, three-quarters of participants were randomly assigned to receive six years of coaching on dietexercise or both. The remainder of participants received “standard” medical care during this time period, such as regular health care check-ups and counseling on healthy lifestyle choices. Twenty-three years later, researchers compared these groups to see which subjects developed diabetes.

More than two decades after the study interventions, 73% of the diet and exercise group had developed diabetes compared to 90% of those receiving regular care. Also, diet and exercise programs nearly cut risk of heart disease-related deaths in half compared to standard care. Risk of death from heart disease was 12% among the diet and exercise groups compared to 20% in the control group.

Although we already know that diet and exercise are key to preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes, this study is a testament to the long-term benefits of healthy lifestyle choices. The Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Study demonstrates that a relatively short diet and exercise program can help improve health more than 20 years later. Perhaps most importantly, it also suggests that counseling on healthy lifestyle choices could help the millions of Americans at risk for type 2 diabetes prevent the full-blown disease. And combating diabetes, a disease that affects 26 million Americans, is important to improving the health of children and adults across the country.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is prediabetes?
  • Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough for an official diagnosis of diabetes. Prediabetes can be diagnosed through a simple blood sugar test, which helps identify patients at high risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.
  • If I have prediabetes, will I develop diabetes in the future?
  • Although prediabetes drastically increases risk for the full-blown disease, there are ways to reduce risk of developing diabetes in the future. Healthy lifestyle choices including a balanced diet and regular physical activity can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Losing weight, even just 7% of your body weight, can also help ward off diabetes later in life.

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