May 23, 2008

Lifestyle Choices Can Prevent Diabetes

In a study that demonstrates lifestyle choices can strongly influence health, researchers in the U.S. and China reported Friday that eating more vegetables, consuming less alcohol and exercising can delay or prevent diabetes.

The study examined 577 high-risk Chinese adults over a 20-year period to examine the consequences of encouraging people to change their lifestyles.

The results showed that diet and exercise reduced the incidence of diabetes by about 43 percent over the study's period.   After 20 years, 80 percent of those who modified their diet and exercised more had diabetes, compared with 93 percent who made no changes, said Guangwei Li of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing and Ping Zhang at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The challenge is to translate research findings into substantial clinical improvements for patients. Although prospects are hopeful, they are not assured," the journal Lancet wrote in a commentary.

Closely linked to physical inactivity and obesity, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 percent of all diabetes cases. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease typically diagnosed at an early age. More than 380 million people will have a form of diabetes by 2025 as more developing nations adopt a Western lifestyle, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

The study participants were assigned to either a control group or one of three groups that included an more exercise, an improved diet or both.

The researchers did not report the specific foods or exercise that contributed to the health improvements, but said the study's results provide an useful strategy to combat a disease that kills about 3 million people every year worldwide.

"This study has shown that ... group-based interventions targeting lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise produce a durable and long-lasting reduction in incidence of type 2 diabetes," the researchers wrote in a report about the study.

A separate team reported results of a study that found insulin infusions or multiple daily injections given early to people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes assisted the body's insulin-producing cells and restored blood sugar control more rapidly than standard medication.

A hallmark of diabetes is an excess amount of glucose, or blood sugar, in the blood. This can damage the kidneys and eyes, and can lead to stroke, heart disease and limb amputations.

The current study was part of a series of new research about diabetes, a disease that  affects 246 million adults worldwide and accounts for 6 percent of deaths throughout the world.

A report about the study can was published in the journal Lancet.  An abstract can be viewed here.