People at high risk of type 2 diabetes can significantly reduce their risk by losing 10% of their body weight in the short term, new research has found.
The study, published online today in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is based on data from the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), the biggest diabetes prevention study in the United States.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analysed data on over 3,000 overweight, hyperglycemic individuals considered to have pre-diabetes. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive a lifestyle interventio, the diabetes drug metformin or a placebo, and were followed for an average of 3.2 years.
The lifestyle intervention involved being educated on healthy eating habits, exercising for 150 minutes a week, and both individual and group counselling .
Participants in this group who managed to reduce their body weight by 10% or more after 6 months were 85% less likely to develop full-blown type 2 diabetes during the following 2.7 years, compared to those who gained weight .
People who lost 5-7% of their initial weight cut their type 2 diabetes risk by more than half (54%), while even those who shed less then 3% weight reduced their risk by a third, the researchers found.
Metformin was not associated with significant weight loss. But it was shown to lower blood sugar levels in many individuals, which correlated to a lower risk of diabetes, suggesting the drug may benefit people with pre-diabetes .
Overall, participants who achieved optimal blood sugar levels as well as losing weight after 6 months showed the lowest risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Lead author Dr Nisa Maruthur said: “Substantial weight loss in the short term clearly should go a long way toward preventing diabetes.”
“I’m usually thrilled if a patient loses 3-5% of his or her body weight after six months, but based on this new knowledge, if patients aren’t losing more weight and if their glucose remains elevated, it might be time to escalate treatment by prescribing metformin,” she added.