Diet, Exercise Can Prevent Diabetes

Goal-Setting Strategies Key to Success for Those at High Risk

From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 27, 2002 -- Imagine cutting your risk of developing diabetes in half without taking a single pill. That's what happened to more than 1,000 people who took part in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), and now researchers are sharing their secrets to success.

Early results from the study released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last year showed for the first time that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes could reduce their risk of developing it by 58% through diet and lifestyle changes alone. And a report in the December 2002 issue of Diabetes Care outlines how the participants did it.

Weight loss and exercise are the core of the program and participants were encouraged to lose at least 7% of their body weight, at a rate of a pound or two each week, within six months. They also were asked to be physically active and participate in a moderate intensity activity like brisk walking at least 150 minutes per week.

Researchers say the DPP found those clearly defined goals were safe, feasible, and effective across a diverse group of adults who were thought to be at high risk for developing diabetes because they already had impaired glucose tolerance, a pre-diabetes condition.

To achieve those goals, the participants were enrolled in a structured 16-session curriculum that taught them about managing their behavior and making healthy diet and exercise decisions. They also had personal lifestyle coaches to help them along the way.

At first, the focus of the diet modifications were to reduce total fat intake rather than calories while emphasizing overall nutritious eating habits. After several weeks, the concept of balancing their daily calories and cutting back on total calories was introduced. Participants were encouraged to use healthier food preparation techniques and careful selection of restaurants to achieve their weight loss goals.

The participants were also asked to weigh themselves at home at least once a week and use the scale as a source of feedback and learning about how their diet and exercise choices were affecting their weight.

Other factors that researchers say are important in achieving the goals were:

  • Offering supervised exercise sessions at least two times a week with a variety of activities and one-on-one personal training.
  • A flexible maintenance program after the initial 16-session curriculum that included motivational campaigns.
  • Tailoring of program materials and techniques to incorporate ethnic diversity.
  • Frequent contacts with participants.

For more details on DPP strategies, visit the NIH Web site at

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, December 2002.

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