A programme designed to prevent people at risk of type 2 diabetes from developing the condition has “huge benefits” for improving the health of those with prediabetes, research has found.

An international team of researchers looked at the effectiveness of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is the largest project of its kind in the world.

As well as helping to reduce diabetes risk, the researchers say the programme also demonstrates a “promising route” for improving people’s health more broadly.

Those on the programme are supported to lose weight and control their blood sugar levels through lifestyle counselling, which encourages them to make lifestyle changes.

Launched in 2016, there has been a lack of certainty about how effective the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme is.

The research team used state-of-the-art statistical methods to assess the health data of more than two million people, and said they have found strong evidence that the programme helped to improve the factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Those referred to the programme saw improved glycaemic control, along with reductions in Body Mass Index (BMI), weight, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Co-author Professor Justine Davies, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Our findings clearly demonstrate the huge benefits of intensive lifestyle counselling for improving the health of patients with prediabetes.

“The evidence also suggests a promising route for improving population health more broadly.

“The positive effects observed in the programme may also extend to other non-communicable diseases such as cancer, which is increasingly thought to be connected to unhealthy lifestyle habits and environments.”

Lead author Julia Lemp, from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, added: “There is an urgent need to implement population-based measures that prevent diabetes, enhance its early detection, and address cardiovascular risk factors to prevent or delay its progression to complications.

“Investment in structured, intensive behaviour change programmes may help prevent development of type 2 diabetes whilst reducing the risk of complications from diabetes and cardiovascular events.

“Our results show beyond reasonable doubt that investments in programs such as this should continue.

“At the same time, there are many people at risk for diabetes who remain underserved by existing care pathways and for whom targeted prevention strategies should be further explored.”

It is predicted that the number of people with diabetes worldwide could rise to 578 million by 2030, which represents 10% of the world’s adult population.

Read the study in full in the journal, Nature.

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