Can diabetes be prevented?

Reza Yavari, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

While Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, Type 2 diabetes - which is often triggered by excess weight gain - can be prevented. In this video, endocrinologist Reza Yavari, MD, explains how Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by simply losing weight.

In some cases, type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Diet, exercise and weight control are essential to this plan. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is typically inherited and is therefore less preventable.
Joel H. Fuhrman, MD
Family Medicine
Yes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented. The primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese, because excess fat on the body interferes with the normal functions of insulin. The heavier you are, the greater the likelihood you will develop type 2 diabetes. In addition, nutrient-depleted refined carbohydrates like sugars and white flour cause dangerous spikes in blood glucose, promoting insulin resistance and increasing diabetes risk. Physical inactivity combined the nutrient-poor standard American diet make it almost impossible to maintain a healthy weight. In order to prevent weight gain and diabetes, we must focus our diets on high-nutrient foods, so that we are getting about 90% of calories from vegetables, beans, fruits, seeds and nuts. We must also exercise frequently, which not only builds physical fitness but contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Constance Brown-Riggs
Nutrition & Dietetics
Simply put "Yes!" Diabetes can be prevented. The results of a number of research studies show that having risk factors for type 2 diabetes doesn't mean a diabetes diagnosis is inevitable.
Take the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study. It involved more than 3,000 people, all of them were overweight and had higher than normal blood glucose, a condition called prediabetes – a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
The DPP tested two approaches to preventing prediabetes from turning to type 2 diabetes. They had one group modify their lifestyle by lowering their intake of fat and calories and exercising 30 minutes five days weekly. A second group used the diabetes medication metformin - also known as Glucophage. Those who took the medication received standard information on exercise and diet, but weren't required to change their eating or exercise habits. When the study ended the people in the lifestyle modification group had lost an average of 15 pounds - reducing one of the major risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes. In fact, they reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.
So, the DPP study proves diabetes isn't a given - even if you have prediabetes and other risk factors. If you are willing to change your lifestyle a little - lose a few pounds and start exercising you can prevent type 2 diabetes.
Some types of diabetes cannot be prevented, like Type 1. However, if you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, such as being overweight or having a family history of this disease, there are some things you can do to delay or prevent its onset. Studies show that people have delayed or prevented Type 2 diabetes by losing 5 to 7% of their body weight through diet and exercise.
You can use the prevention methods for Type 2 diabetes to prevent gestational diabetes, too. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, following the guidelines for Type 2 diabetes will delay or prevent the disease.

Continue Learning about Diabetes Prevention

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.