FRIDAY, July 27, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Weight control through diet and exercise can prevent most cases of type 2 diabetes in American women over age 50, a new study finds.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., analyzed data from more than 150,000 postmenopausal women who were followed for more than 10 years. Hispanics and Asians were about twice as likely as whites to develop diabetes; blacks were two to three times as likely.
Those differences were largely due to modifiable lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity and smoking, the researchers said.
The study also found that a large reduction in diabetes risk among women would occur in all four racial and ethnic groups if they maintained a healthy body weight, ate a healthy diet and were physically active.
Maintaining a body-mass index (BMI) of less than 25 appeared to be particularly important in reducing diabetes risk. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
"Our work shows that among numerous races [and] ethnicities, the women with both high body-mass index and low levels of physical activity are far more likely to develop diabetes," primary investigator Dr. Yunsheng Ma said in a medical school news release. "A healthier diet and adequate levels of physical activity significantly lower that risk for most women."
The study was published July 23 in the journal Diabetes Care.
Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, means the body doesn't produce or properly use the hormone insulin, which is needed to convert food into energy. Untreated, type 2 diabetes can cause damage to the heart, eyes, kidneys and other organs.
The U.S. National Diabetes Education Program has more about diabetes prevention.