New research suggests that a period of careful eating and regular physical activity could prevent diabetes for up to a decade.

US researchers followed up nearly 3,000 overweight people who had taken part in a three-year diabetes prevention programme. They had initially been divided into three groups, one undertaking a diet and exercise programme, the second taking metformin and the third a placebo.

The report noted it was the dieters who reaped the most benefit. All three groups were given access to ongoing lifestyle coaching once the initial three-year trial had ended.

Dieters reap the most benefit

The trial, carried out by the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, showed a diet aimed at achieving 7 per cent weight loss combined with half an hour of physical activity five days a week, reduced the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 per cent compared with the placebo group. The group on metformin saw their risk decline by nearly a third.

In the seven years after the trial ended, both the drug and placebo groups, now also eating more carefully and taking regular physical activity, saw the rate of diabetes fall.

One of the most important recent studies

"The Diabetes Prevention Program is one of the most important recent studies investigating alternative approaches to prevent Type 2 diabetes," said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.

"It is fascinating to read about the 10-year follow-up studies and of the importance of lifestyle interventions, with or without metformin, in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes even after 10 years.

"There is clearly no easy route to take to prevent Type 2 diabetes but indications are that with further research into the long-term benefits of good dietary advice, physical activity and, where necessary, drug therapies, we may be a step closer into helping people at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes modify their lifestyle choices that are sustainable in the longer term."

Diabetes UK

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