In 1986, the World Health Organization helped to fund the China Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Outcomes Study, a randomized controlled trial of lifestyle interventions lasting over twenty years. During the first six years of active intervention of diet and exercise, the incidence of diabetes was reduced by 43%. This benefit persisted over the extended follow up period of twenty years. Onset of type 2 diabetes had been delayed by an average of 3.6 years with diet and exercise.

Similar randomized, controlled studies of lifestyle interventions have shown exactly the same benefit around the world. In the United States, the Diabetes Prevention Program reduced the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 58% while maintaining an average weight loss of 5% over 4.8 years. Ten-year follow up continued to show a substantial 34% benefit. The Indian Diabetes Prevention Programme used lifestyle modifications to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by almost 30%. The Finnish Diabetes Prevention Program reported a 58% reduction. A Japanese trial was able to reduce progression by 67%.

The one factor of over-riding important to note is that all these successful prevention studies use lifestyle changes. Type 2 diabetes is overwhelmingly a lifestyle disease, so lifestyle interventions are required, not medications. You can’t use drugs to prevent a dietary disease.

You can do a lot to reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are some things you can change to lower your risk:

  • Lose weight and keep it off. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight. For instance, if you weigh 90 kg, your goal would be to lose about 5-10 kg.
  • Move more. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional about which activities are best. Start slowly to build up to your goal.
  • Eat healthy unprocessed foods most of the time. 
  • Drink water instead of sweetened beverages.
  • Adopt Time Restricted Eating habit. An example of time-restricted eating is if you choose to eat all your food for the day in an 8-hour period, such as from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The remaining 16 hours each day are the fasting period, during which no calories are consumed.