Healthy lifestyle can reduce type 2 diabetes risk by 90%

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According to a study published in The BMJ, women with a history of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) can still reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

This includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, cessation of smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and moderate alcohol consumption.

The Study: Exploring Lifestyle and Diabetes Risk in High-Risk Women

While a healthy lifestyle is widely recognized as a protective factor against type 2 diabetes in middle-aged populations, less is known about its effects on high-risk women with a history of gestational diabetes.

Furthermore, the role of obesity and genetic susceptibility in this context remains unclear.

To address these research gaps, researchers analyzed the associations of adherence to five modifiable risk factors—healthy weight, high-quality diet, regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking—with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women with a history of gestational diabetes.

The study involved 4,275 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II, who were tracked for 28 years, with repeated measurements of weight and lifestyle factors.

The researchers also investigated whether the associations differed according to obesity status or underlying genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes.

Findings: Strong Association Between Lifestyle and Diabetes Risk in High-Risk Women

Over the 28-year follow-up period, 924 of the women developed type 2 diabetes.

The analysis revealed that those who adhered to all five modifiable lifestyle factors had a 90% lower risk of developing the disease compared to those who did not adhere to any.

Moreover, each additional healthy lifestyle factor was associated with an incremental reduction in diabetes risk.

Specifically, compared to those with none, women with one, two, three, four, and five optimal lifestyle factors had a 6%, 39%, 68%, 85%, and 92% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, respectively.

These beneficial associations were consistent even among women who were overweight or obese or had a higher genetic risk of type 2 diabetes.

Limitations and Conclusions: The Relevance and Generalizability of the Study

Though the study was observational and thus cannot establish causality, its findings offer important insights.

Its limitations include the use of self-reported data, which may have affected accuracy, and the predominantly European ancestry of the participants, which may limit the generalizability of the findings.

Despite these limitations, the study’s use of a large data set with repeated health and behavioral risk factor measurements over a long period is a notable strength.

It underscores the potential for public health interventions to prevent type 2 diabetes in this high-risk population, highlighting the critical role of lifestyle in managing diabetes risk.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies that flaxseed oil is more beneficial than fish oil to people with diabetes, and Stanford study finds drug that prevents kidney failure in diabetes.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies that blueberries strongly benefit people with metabolic syndrome, and results showing new bandage for foot ulcers in people with diabetes.

The study was published in The BMJ.

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