Programs that get people to eat more healthily and increase their physical activity
really can help reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A new review finds that diet and exercise programs can help people reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Diet and exercise programs are cost-effective, help restore blood sugar to normal
levels and reduce a number of other diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors,
including being overweight and having high blood pressure and cholesterol.
These were the conclusions the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) came to
after overseeing a review of published evidence on whether diet and physical activity
programs really help prevent or control type 2 diabetes.
The review – which covers the clinical and economic effectiveness of such programs – was
conducted by panels of government, academic, policy and practice-based scientists, who report
their findings in a cluster of studies published in the Annals of Internal
As a result of the review – which provides “strong evidence of effectiveness” both
in terms of clinical results and value for money – the CPSTF recommend combined diet and
physical activity programs for people at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The task force define being at risk for type 2 diabetes as having abnormally high levels
of blood glucose but not high enough to be classed as type 2 diabetes. Classification can
also be assessed using other validated predictive risk scores, they note.
Effective programs for reducing type 2 diabetes risk
The CPSTF say effective programs that promote diet changes and increased physical activity
to reduce risk for type 2 diabetes have a number of elements, including:
- Trainers who work directly with participants in clinics and communities for at least 3
- Counseling, coaching and extended support
- Several taught sessions on how to change diet, increase physical activity
- Sessions delivered in person or via email or online, or all of these
Altogether, the reviewers examined 53 studies evaluating a total of 66 programs. 30 of the
studies compared diet and physical activity programs against usual care, 12 compared
intensive versus less intensive programs, and 13 reviewed single programs.
They found that compared with usual care, nearly all the diet and physical
activity programs reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes, decreased body weight and fasting
blood glucose, and improved other risk factors (such as blood pressure and
The reviewers also found that more intensive programs (for instance those that delivered
more sessions, or gave more personal attention, or had more staff) were more effective. They
led to greater weight loss and lower rates of diabetes than less intensive programs.
Millions of Americans ‘do not know they have diabetes’
Diabetes is a disease where there is too much glucose in the blood. This can be either
because the body cannot produce the insulin that helps convert the glucose into energy for
cells (type 1 diabetes) or because the body develops resistance to insulin (type 2 diabetes,
the most common form of the disease).
If diabetes goes untreated, high glucose levels build up in the blood and instead of going
into cells to produce energy, it leads to short-term and long-term problems. In the short
term, cells get starved of energy.
In the longer term, too much glucose in the blood affects the eyes, kidneys, nerves and
heart. If untreated, it leads to serious health complications, including heart disease,
stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.3% of
Americans (29.1 million) have diabetes, 28% of whom (8.1 million) don’t know they have it,
while 86 million have prediabetes, but only 11% know they have it.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US, where estimates show it cost the
American economy some $245 billion in 2012.
Many people with diabetes have to control their blood sugar by regularly pricking
their finger and injecting themselves with insulin. The procedure is painful and risky –
injecting the wrong amount of insulin can lead to serious complications, and in some cases,
coma and death.
However, Medical News Today recently learned how researchers are working on a smart insulin patch that could one day make such an ordeal a
thing of the past.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today