Diet and Exercise to Stave off Diabetes and Death

Diabetes and death rates lower among those with impaired glucose tolerance participating in diet and exercise interventions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For people with chronic high blood sugar, exercise and a healthy diet could delay or prevent diabetes. New research shows those interventions could even save lives.

Patients with prediabetes, or constantly high blood sugar that isn't quite high enough to qualify as diabetes, participated in a long-term trial. Some of these patients were assigned to a diet or exercise intervention, while others received standard medical treatment.

Researchers followed up with these patients 20 years later and found that the intervention group had significantly lower rates of death from all causes and from heart disease.

The intervention group also had much lower rates of diabetes.

"If you have high blood sugar, talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise plan."

Guangwei Li, MD, of the Department of Endocrinology at China-Japan Friendship Hospital, led this study.

Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble regulating blood sugar, or glucose. People with chronic high blood sugar, or impaired glucose tolerance, are more at risk for developing the disease.

Certain lifestyle interventions can help to prevent or delay the development of diabetes for people with impaired glucose tolerance. 

According to the authors of this study, previous research has shown that exercise programs and weight loss could prevent chronic high blood sugar from turning into type 2 diabetesHowever, these authors noted that there has been a lack of clinical trials analyzing how these lifestyle changes affect risk of death from all causes and from heart disease.

To better understand the effects of lifestyle interventions on patients with high blood sugar, the researchers conducted a study involving 577 patients with impaired glucose tolerance.

A total of 439 patients were assigned to an intervention group, and 138 were assigned to the control group that received standard medical care.

Of the intervention group, 148 participants received a diet-only intervention, 155 received an exercise-only intervention, and 136 received a combination of both.

The intervention portion of the study lasted for six years.

All participants underwent exams at the start of the study, at two years and at six years. The researchers followed up with participants at the 20- and 23-year marks.

During follow-up, the researchers noted rates of death from all causes and from heart disease, incidence of diabetes and diabetes-related blood vessel problems.

A total of 174 participants died during the 23 years of follow-up.

The cumulative incidence of death from all causes was 28.1 percent of the intervention group and 38.4 percent of the control group.

The researchers also found that 11.9 percent of the intervention group died of heart disease versus 19.6 percent of the control group.

Additionally, by the end of the follow-up period, 89.9 percent of control group had developed diabetes, compared with 72.6 percent of the control group.

The researchers noted that the decrease in rates of death affected women more than men, even though the interventions were effective at reducing rates of diabetes among both sexes.

The authors of this study concluded that diet and exercise lifestyle interventions for people with impaired glucose tolerance can help prevent diabetes and reduce heart-related consequences of diabetes. These authors suggested that such interventions could reduce health costs and prevent deaths for patients at risk for developing diabetes.

This study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology on April 2.

The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and the Da Qing First Hospital. The authors of the study declared no competing interests.

Review Date: 
April 2, 2014
Last Updated:
April 3, 2014