NORWICH, United Kingdom — It happens every year: someone makes a New Year’s resolution to drop 10 pounds, but stops going to the gym by February. What if losing half that much weight could significantly cut your risk of diabetes? That’s exactly what researchers in the United Kingdom have discovered while examining small lifestyles changes made by patients with prediabetes. Their study reveals just a modest amount of weight loss and increasing physical activity cuts the risk of developing diabetes in half in just two years.
Researchers examined over 1,000 prediabetes patients at high risk for Type 2 diabetes. The group was part of the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study (NDPS), the world’s largest diabetes prevention study in 30 years. The results reveal losing 4.4 and 6.6 pounds (2-3 kilograms) and increasing physical activity reduces the risk for diabetes by 40 to 47 percent.
The team says these findings show how a “real-world” lifestyle program can make a major difference in combating Type 2 diabetes. The eight-year trial focused on small and achievable adjustments as part of the diabetes prevention program. Participants were able to keep the weight off for at least two years, keeping their prediabetes in check.
“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,” NDPS chief investigator Prof. Mike Sampson says in a university release.
Weight loss study a ‘real breakthrough’ in diabetes prevention
The study found 144,000 people in the East of England at risk for Type 2 diabetes between 2011 and 2018. From that group, over 1,000 people diagnosed with prediabetes were chosen for the lifestyle program. Researchers also compared their progress to a control group with a follow-up after two years.
“For every 11 people who received the NDPS intervention, one person was prevented from getting Type 2 diabetes, which is a real breakthrough,” says NDPS co-investigator Prof. Max Bachmann from the University of East Anglia.
Researchers say previous studies have experimented with expensive and intense intervention programs to help prediabetes patients. This program is the first to prove real world adjustments focusing on mild weight loss can also reduce Type 2 diabetes risk.
“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,” Prof. Colin Greaves from the University of Birmingham adds.
The study appears in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.