‘Road to a healthier future’: Losing only a few pounds may reduce diabetes risk

TORONTO — Weight loss and exercise may prevent Type 2 diabetes among at-risk groups, according to a major new study.

As part of the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study (NDPS), considered the largest of its kind over the last three decades, researchers in England examined more than 1,000 individuals between 2011 and 2019 in “high-risk intermediate glycemic” categories, sometimes called “prediabetes.”

A portion of them were directed through cost-saving group intervention programs, either with or without volunteer “diabetes prevention mentors.” A third control group received usual care. While the volunteer support didn’t reduce the risk further, both intervention measures improved risk outcomes, according to the results published earlier this month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

After a two- to three-year follow-up, the researchers found that small changes in lifestyle, including a boost in physical fitness and between four to seven pounds in weight loss, had reduced the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 40 to 47 per cent. Approximately one in every 11 people who undertook the intervention was prevented from getting Type 2 diabetes, which investigators called a “real breakthrough.” Other studies have shown more intensive and expensive interventions to be effective in preventing Type 2 diabetes, but this is the first to show a “real world group-delivered intervention” may be effective.

“If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, this approach offers a way to take a different direction in your life — to get off the path to type 2 diabetes and onto the road to a healthier future,” said University of Birmingham professor Colin Greaves in a news release.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Canadians are newly diagnosed with diabetes. In 2013-2014, about one in 10 adults over the age of 20 were living with the diagnosed metabolic disease, according to the most recent Public Health Agency of Canada data.

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