Losing a few pounds could almost halve the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
The study found that providing support to help people with prediabetes make small changes to their lifestyle, diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of them developing the condition.
Making the modest tweaks – including losing two to three kilograms of weight (four to six pounds) – slashed the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40-47%.
The study was led by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and the University of East Anglia.
Researchers say there are about eight million people with prediabetes in the UK and 4.5 million have already developed type 2 diabetes.
Professor Mike Sampson, NDPS chief investigator and consultant in diabetes at NNUH, said: “We are delighted with the results of this trial, as until now no one was very sure if a real-world lifestyle programme prevented type 2 diabetes in the prediabetes population we studied, as there have been no clinical trials that had shown this.
“We have now shown a significant effect in type 2 diabetes prevention, and we can be very optimistic that even a modest weight loss, and an increase in physical activity, in real world programmes like this have a big effect on the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
“This is really great news for the eight million people in the UK with a prediabetes diagnosis.
“The results of this trial, show that diabetes prevention is possible in the same prediabetes populations being treated in the NHS national diabetes prevention programme.
“This is important to know, as the clinical methods for diagnosing diabetes and prediabetes have changed a lot in recent years.”
The findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, come from the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study (NDPS).
What the study found
The NDPS study ran between 2011 and 2018 and worked with 135 GP practices in the East of England, and found 144,000 people who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In screening sites across the East of England, 13,000 of these people then took a fasting glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) blood test to detect prediabetes.
More than 1,000 people with prediabetes were then entered into a randomised controlled trial, testing a pragmatic real-world lifestyle intervention, compared to a control group, with average follow-up of just over two years.
The NDPS clinical trial ran over eight years and involved more than 1,000 people with prediabetes at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The trial tested a simple lifestyle intervention, which helped people make small achievable lifestyle changes that led to a modest weight loss, and increases in physical activity.
These changes were sustained for at least two years and the weight lost was not put back on.
NDPS co-investigator Professor Max Bachmann, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “For every 11 people who received the NDPS intervention, one person was prevented from getting type 2 diabetes, which is a real breakthrough.”