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Lifestyle Changes Can Keep Diabetes at Bay for 14 Years

By the 20th year, 80 percent of those who had participated in a diet and exercise program had developed diabetes, compared with 93 percent of the people who did not participate in such a program. People who had been in a diet and exercise program, spent 3.6 fewer years with diabetes than people who hadn't, Gregg's team found.

Gregg believes that similar programs could be effective in the United States. "Interventions used in this study are similar to interventions that have been used in the United States and do work," he said.

One expert says that despite these impressive results, the study does have a couple of important limitations.

"The majority of study participants in both intervention and control groups went on to develop diabetes eventually," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "Moreover, the study is unable to prove that the intervention conferred a survival benefit."

Another limitation is how these results from lifestyle changes can be translated into the real world, Katz said.

"Despite these limitations and the challenges that lie ahead, the finding that we can teach people to eat well and be active, and thereby provide them meaningful defense against diabetes that lasts for decades, is of extraordinary significance," Katz said.

In a third study, Finnish researchers found that incidence of type 1 diabetes has more than doubled among Finnish children in the past 25 years. The incidence of type 1 diabetes rose from 31.4 children per 100,000 children in 1980 to 64.2 children per 100,000 children in 2005.

The increase is expected to continue. This dramatic increase in type 1 diabetes appears to be a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors, the researchers say. For example, obesity among Finnish children has risen from 9.5 percent in the mid-1980s to 20 percent currently.

More information

For more about diabetes, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

SOURCES: Edward Gregg, Ph.D., branch chief, Epidemiology and Statistical Brunch, Division of Diabetes Translation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; May 24, 2008,The Lancet


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