- Losing 4-6 pounds of weight could reduce risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 40-47%, according to a new study.
- Small lifestyle tweaks including increased physical activity and modest, sustained weight loss were found to have a “significant” impact.
- The research was the largest diabetes prevention research study to have taken place in the world for the past 30 years.
- Researchers hope that the results of the study will encourage people with prediabetes to take proactive action.
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Losing as little as 4 pounds of weight could lead to a drastic reduction in diabetes risk, a large new study suggests.
The Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study (NDPS) is the largest diabetes prevention research study to have taken place in the world for the past 30 years, assessing more than 1,000 people with prediabetes over eight years.
The research, led by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and University of East Anglia and published in JAMA Internal Medicine, concluded that lifestyle tweaks such as losing a small amount of weight could reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 40-47% among people with prediabetes.
Participants also increased their physical activity levels, and maintained this, as well as the weight loss, for two years.
Type 2 diabetes risk increases with weight gained
About 10.5% of US citizens have diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020, and Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes is a lot more common than Type 1.
The risk factors for Type 1 diabetes aren’t well known, but Type 2 diabetes risk is proven to increase due to factors including being overweight and having high blood pressure.
The National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020 found that 89% of people with diabetes in the US are overweight or obese, and 38% were physically inactive (defined as doing less than 10 minutes of vigorous activity per week in each physical activity category of work, leisure time, and transportation).
Modest weight loss could reduce Type 2 diabetes risk by 47%
The NDPS studied 1,028 people diagnosed with prediabetes, which is when a person has higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, which could lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Participants in the randomised controlled trial were instructed to make small healthy lifestyle changes which, crucially, they could sustain for two years.
This real-world lifestyle intervention involved modest tweaks, improving diet, and increasing physical activity, which led to weight loss of 2-3 kg (4.4-6.6 pounds), which was kept off.
For every 11 people with prediabetes involved in the study, one Type 2 diabetes diagnosis was prevented.
The findings suggest a cost-effective, achievable way to reduce Type 2 diabetes risk
Researchers say the findings show how effective real-life intervention can be for reducing Type 2 diabetes risk.
“We are delighted with the results of this trial, as until now no one was very sure if a real-world lifestyle program prevented Type 2 diabetes in the prediabetes population we studied, as there have been no clinical trials that had shown this,” Professor Mike Sampson, NDPS Chief Investigator and Consultant in Diabetes at NNUH, said in a release.
“We have now shown a significant effect in Type 2 diabetes prevention, and we can be very optimistic that even a modest weight loss, and an increase in physical activity, in real world programs like this have a big effect on the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes,” he added.
The study suggests that lifestyle interventions delivered in groups work, which is far cheaper for health services than individual treatments.
Researchers hope that the results of the study will encourage people with prediabetes to take proactive action and start making small lifestyle changes that will lead to a healthier future.
“This trial again highlights how achieving modest weight loss through diet and physical activity changes can lead to huge benefits for people at high risk of developing type 2,” said Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.
Low-calorie diets have been shown to help people manage diabetes
Earlier this month, new research was published which found that following a low-calorie diet could be a way for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar without medication, and even reach remission, as Insider’s Gabby Landsverk reported.
The 88 participants were put on a very low-calorie diet, consuming 600-800 calories a day, for three months, before gradually upping their calorie intake while remaining in a deficit to ensure continued weight loss.
By the end of the program, 12% of participants were able to control their blood sugar without any medication.
The drastic calorie reduction is at odds with the approach used in the NDPS, which concluded that small, long-term lifestyle tweaks and modest diet changes led to sustained weight loss and thus reduction in Type 2 diabetes risk.
Dietitians recommend small changes for lasting weight loss
While an energy deficit is required for weight loss, most dietitians recommend gentle calorie reductions and consuming all food groups in order to create a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable, leading to lasting results.
“In order to change you need to make realistic changes, baby steps that don’t feel too difficult,” sports and eating disorder specialist dietitian Renee McGregor previously told Insider.
“Don’t create any rules about what you should or shouldn’t eat. The first aim should be to prevent blood sugar fluctuations â€” to do this try to eat something at 3-4 hour intervals,” McGregor added. “This more gentle approach will help you to create sustainable, balanced behaviours and focuses on having a healthy attitude towards food and exercise.”
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