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Diabetes is preventable

HELSINKI, FINLAND. Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) is a precursor of type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that 35 per cent of all cases of IGT eventually progress to full-blown diabetes. Researchers at the Finnish National Public Health Institute now report that this progression can be halted by fairly simple lifestyle modifications. Their study involved 522 middle-aged, overweight men and women with a mean age of 55 years. All participants had IGT, that is a fasting glucose level of less than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) and a plasma glucose concentration between 140 mg/dL and 200 mg/dL (11.0 mmol/L) two hours after the oral administration of 75 grams of glucose.

Study participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group or the control group. The members of the intervention group were given individualized goals on how to reduce weight (by 5 per cent or more), how to decrease total fat intake and saturated fat intake (to 30 per cent and 10 per cent of energy consumed respectively), how to increase fiber intake, and how to exercise effectively for at least 30 minutes a day. The control group was given some general advice, but no personalized attention. After four years 11 per cent of the members of the intervention group had developed diabetes as compared to 23 per cent in the control group. None of the 49 members in the intervention group or the 15 members of the control group who reached four out of the five goals developed diabetes. On the other hand, diabetes did develop in the 48 subjects in the control group and the 13 subjects in the intervention group who did not achieve any of the five goals.

The researchers conclude that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by changes in lifestyle among people with IGT. NOTE: This study was partially funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation (established by Novo Nordisk, a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals).
Tuomilehto, Jaakko, et al. Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 344, May 3, 2001, pp. 1343-50

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