At present, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. The environmental triggers that are thought to generate the process that results in the destruction of the body’s insulin-producing cells are still under investigation.
While there are a number of factors that influence the development of type 2 diabetes, it is evident that the most influential are lifestyle behaviors commonly associated with urbanization. These include consumption of unhealthy foods and inactive lifestyles with sedentary behaviour. Studies from different parts of the world have established that lifestyle modification with physical activity and/or healthy diet can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Modern lifestyles are characterized by physical inactivity and long sedentary periods. Community-based interventions can reach individuals and families through campaigns, education, social marketing and encourage physical activity both inside and outside school and the workplace. It is recommended to perform physical activity at least between three to five days a week, for a minimum of 30-45 minutes.
Taking a life course perspective is essential for preventing type 2 diabetes and its complications. Early in life, when eating and physical activity habits are established and when the long-term regulation of energy balance may be programmed, there is an especially critical window to prevent the development of overweight and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Healthy lifestyles can improve health outcomes at later stages of life as well.
Population based interventions and policies allow healthy choices through policies in trade, agriculture, transport and urban planning to become more accessible and easy. Healthy choices can be promoted in specific settings (school, workplace and home) and contribute to better health for everyone. They include exercising regularly and eating wisely which will help to maintain normal levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipids.
Type 2 diabetes prevention studies
There is overwhelming evidence from studies in the USA, Finland, China, India and Japan that lifestyle changes (achieving a healthy body weight and moderate physical activity) can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in those at high risk.
- The Da Qing Study examined the effect of a 6-year diet and exercise intervention in Chinese individuals with Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) and an average age of 45. The diet intervention alone was associated with a 31% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while the exercise intervention alone showed a 46% reduction. The combined diet and exercise group had a similar 42% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes during a 6-year follow-up period.
- Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was conducted in 3234 US adults with IGT. Unlike most previous studies, the cohort was diverse and included a large proportion of women (68%) and ethnic minorities (45%), and compared lifestyle intervention versus drug intervention (metformin) and a placebo control group over 2.8 years. The DPP reported that both lifestyle intervention and metformin had positive effects on the prevention of type 2 diabetes and restoring normal glucose tolerance. The lifestyle intervention was more effective in preventing type 2 diabetes, particularly in older adults.
- The Indian Diabetes Prevention Program (IDPP) was a prospective community-based study, that examined whether the progression to type 2 diabetes could be influenced by interventions in native Asian Indians with IGT who were younger, leaner and more insulin resistant than in multi ethnic American, Finnish and Chinese populations Results showed that progression of IGT to type 2 diabetes is high in native Asian Indians. Both lifestyle modification and metformin significantly reduced the incidence of type 2 diabetes in Asian Indians with IGT.
IDF recommendations for a healthy diet for the general population
- Choosing water, coffee or tea instead of fruit juice, soda, or other sugar sweetened beverages.
- Eating at least three servings of vegetable every day, including green leafy vegetables.
- Eating up to three servings of fresh fruit every day.
- Choosing nuts, a piece of fresh fruit, or unsweetened yoghurt for a snack.
- Limiting alcohol intake to a maximum of two standard drinks per day.
- Choosing lean cuts of white meat, poultry or seafood instead of red or processed meat.
- Choosing peanut butter instead of chocolate spread or jam.
- Choosing whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta instead of white bread, rice, or pasta.
- Choosing unsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, or sunflower oil) instead of saturated fats (butter, ghee, animal fat, coconut oil or palm oil.
A particular threat in terms of the associated risk of developing type 2 diabetes is the consumption of high sugar foods, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations to limit sugar intake. IDF fully supports these recommendations.
Type 2 diabetes
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition where the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly, or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. This means your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body still breaks down carbohydrate from your food and drink and turns it into glucose. The pancreas then responds to this by releasing insulin. But because this insulin can’t work properly, your blood sugar levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released.
For some people with type 2 diabetes this can eventually tire the pancreas out, meaning their body makes less and less insulin. This can lead to even higher blood sugar levels and mean you are at risk of hyperglycaemia.
Is type 2 diabetes serious?
Around 90% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2. It is serious condition and can be lifelong.
If left untreated, high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet. These are called the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, you can live well with type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of developing them.
Managing type 2 diabetes
Learning how to live with type 2 diabetes can be challenging, but we’ll help you to discover what works for you. Some people can manage it through healthier eating, being more active or losing weight. But eventually most people will need medication to bring their blood sugar down to their target level.
Can type 2 diabetes be cured?
There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but some people are able to put their diabetes into remission. This means that your blood sugar levels are healthy and you don’t need to take diabetes medication anymore. Remission can be life-changing, but it’s not possible for everyone.
Treatments for type 2 diabetes
There are a number of different ways you can treat type 2 diabetes, such as making healthy lifestyle choices, using insulin or taking medication. Your healthcare team will help you find the right treatment for you. This can reduce your risk of developing complications and help you to live well with diabetes.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
When you have type 2 diabetes your body can’t get enough glucose into your cells, so a common symptom is feeling very tired. There are also other symptoms to look out for. These include feeling thirsty, going to the toilet a lot and losing weight without trying to.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop more slowly than the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, making the condition harder to spot. That’s why a lot of people don’t get any symptoms, or don’t notice them.
Some people also don’t think the symptoms are important, so don’t ask for help. This means some people can live for up to 10 years with type 2 diabetes before being diagnosed.
Risk factors of type 2 diabetes
There are several factors that can affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes are not always obvious, it’s really important to be aware of these risk factors. They can include:
- your age
- if you have a parent, brother, sister or child with diabetes
- your ethnicity
- high blood pressure
- being overweight
We’ve got more information about all the risk factors that can help you discover your risk of type 2 diabetes within minutes.
Newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Knowing where to get started following a type 2 diagnosis can be a challenge. You may feel overwhelmed, but it’s important to know there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to managing the condition.
As well as using the information on this page to understand your condition, you can meet other people with type 2 diabetes in our Learning Zone. You’ll hear advice from others in your position, and get practical tools to help you feel more confident managing your condition.
Want to know more?
Whether you are newly diagnosed, looking to improve your diabetes management, or in need of information to support others, we are here to help. We’ve got lots more information about:
Preventing type 2 diabetes
Did you know that around 3 in 5 cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed? Our information about preventing type 2 will show you the steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition.
Checking your blood sugar levels
Checking your blood sugar levels is an important part of managing your diabetes, so we’ll take you through how to check them and what your readings mean.
And we’ve also got more information about what happens your blood sugar levels get too low, called a hypo, or too high, called a hyper, so that you’re aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for.
Living with type 2 diabetes
Having type 2 diabetes can bring up lots of questions about your lifestyle, but we’re here with the answers. From nutritional advice and recipes to help you know what to eat when you have type 2 diabetes, to guidance about keeping active and staying fit – we’re here to support you.
We’ve also got more information for different age groups, such as young people and older people, as well as practical school advice for parents of children with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is also associated with other health conditions, such as thyroid disease and dental problems. It’s important to be aware of these, so make sure to read our information about diabetes related conditions.
Type 2 diabetes is a complicated condition, and it may seem like there’s a lot of information to take in. If you’re feeling worried or stressed, we’ve got emotional support and advice that you may find helpful.
For some people, managing their diabetes with technology can be life-changing. But we also know it can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to begin. Our information and guidance about diabetes technology will help you understand what the different types of tech do and how to access them, so you can find what works for you.
That’s it for now.
More about Type 2 Diabetes in coming reports.