Prevention of Diabetes Mellitus
When people talk about prevention of diabetes, it is usually about preventing type 2 diabetes. In the majority of cases, type 2 diabetes is brought on by lifestyle factors which can often be prevented.
These include an unbalanced diet, lack of activity, lack of sleep, stress, smoking and alcohol.
By making lifestyles changes, you can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Leading doctors and researchers point to excessive levels of insulin as the likely reason why insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes develops.
Strategies such as low-carb diets and exercise help to reduce levels of insulin and are therefore effective for preventing type 2 diabetes from developing.
Losing weight, adopting more activity into your day, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake can also help towards lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and improving your all-round health.
Diet is the most important part of lifestyle change. The adage that you can’t outrun a bad diet is true.
It is much easier to lose weight on a good diet even if you are struggling to do exercise, than it is through exercise if you’re eating a poor diet.
Effective diets to prevent type 2 diabetes are those that do not cause your body to produce a lot of insulin. Carbohydrate has the biggest demand on insulin and so any diet that helps reduce carbohydrate intake will help towards reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Cutting out sugary food and drink and refined grains such as white bread and white rice is a good first step.
Modern research has shown that low-fat diets are not as healthy as they were once believed to be. It is more important to avoid processed food rather than trying to avoid fat in foods such as dairy.
Aim to have a balanced diet by basing meals around vegetables and include healthy sources of fat such as unsalted tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts), olive oil, avocado, oily fish, meat and full fat dairy.
For help with following a healthy diet that will help keep type 2 diabetes at bay, join Diabetes.co.uk's Low Carb Program.
When people talk about preventing diabetes it generally refers to prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Central obesity, weight gain around your middle, is strongly associated with development of type 2 diabetes.
A suitable diet for avoiding type 2 diabetes will typically be:
- Based around vegetables
- Relatively high in fibre
- Free from refined carbohydrates
- Free from processed foods
Physical activity can help to keep the body’s hormones in good working order. It’s recommended to include 30 minutes of physical activity within each day.
It is recommended to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol to improve your health. Higher intakes of alcohol are known to cause fat to be deposited around the waist, particularly in men, which then raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Genetic factors are also responsible for an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Keeping to a healthy lifestyle won’t be able to change your genes but could help to offset the genetic risk.
Type 1 diabetes is a different condition to type 2 diabetes and the causes are not yet well understood. Currently there are no prevention guidelines for type 1 diabetes.
Whilst a good diet is the foundation of good health, exercise is the next important step.
Exercise can help to prevent diabetes in a number of ways.
During exercise, our muscles use any excess sugar in the blood and the sugar, known as glycogen, that is stored in the muscles and liver.
After exercise is completed, the muscles will gradually replenish their sugar stores by taking in sugar from the blood. This helps lower blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity.
Regular exercise, along with a good diet, can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and can help reduce cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Even a little extra activity each day can help. Some basic steps can really help to make a difference if they become a regular habit, such as walking to the shops rather using the car or getting off the bus a stop early.
Whilst medication, such as metformin, has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes amongst particularly high-risk cases where lifestyles interventions alone may not be enough.
In the UK, medication is not routinely prescribed to prevent type 2 diabetes, however, it may be prescribed on a case-by-case basis by doctors. 
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune condition and there is currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes from occurring.
Whilst some trials have shown some evidence of risk reduction, these have been smaller trials and larger scale studies are required to confirm and substantiate the findings.
The area researchers have been looking into include:
- Gluteen free diets
- Avoiding cow's milk
- Infusing umbilical cord blood taken at birth