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Does Diabetes Prevention Work for Everyone?

Weight loss and exercise can notably lower diabetes risk. But do such lifestyle changes work for everyone?…

The lifestyle changes involved in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) — which include eating less fat and fewer calories and exercising for 150 minutes per week — may be a good way to prevent diabetes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, according to a recent study.

Right after participating in the program, people from these native populations had major improvements in three main risk factors of diabetes. The study may offer a new way to lower diabetes rates among native populations, a group that has higher rates of diabetes than the general American population.

The Diabetes Prevention Program was a large study aimed at discovering whether modest weight loss through diet and exercise or treatment with the diabetes drug metformin could slow or prevent type 2 diabetes. The results were positive.

Taking this past research into consideration, Luohua Jiang, PhD, of Texas A&M Health Science Center, and colleagues wanted to see if a similar lifestyle intervention could slow or prevent the onset of diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The researchers studied 2,553 participants with prediabetes. The participants were offered a 16-session course that teaches how to balance a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. The researchers measured participants’ diabetes status and risk before completing the course, soon after completing the course and every year for up to 3 years.

The rate of diabetes among the participants was 4 percent per year.

Participants had significantly improved weight, blood pressure and lipid (blood fat) levels immediately after the intervention and every year after for 3 years.

While results could not show whether attending the course had a direct effect on diabetes rates, weight loss and blood pressure, class attendance was strongly correlated with those factors. In other words, the more participants attended class, the more diabetes rates, weight loss and blood pressure were improved.

According to the authors, "Our findings demonstrate the feasibility and potential of translating the lifestyle intervention in diverse American Indian and Alaska Native communities. They have important implications for future dissemination and institutionalization of the intervention throughout the Native American Health System."

Diabetes Care, Dec. 2013 "Translating the Diabetes Prevention Program Into American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: Results from the Special Diabetes Program for Indians Diabetes Prevention Demonstration Project"