MONDAY, Nov. 18, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Being an elite athlete, especially in an endurance sport, may help protect men against type 2 diabetes later in life, a small new study says.
Researchers looked at 392 Finnish men who were former elite athletes and a comparison group of 207 men who hadn't been athletes. Overall, being a former elite athlete reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 28 percent.
The amount of risk reduction varied, depending on the type of sport. It was 61 percent lower for endurance sports. A less significant trend for reduced risk was seen in power sports (23 percent lower) and for mixed sports (21 percent lower).
The study was published Nov. 15 in the journal Diabetologia.
The former elite athletes also had a 42 percent lower risk of having prediabetes, according to a journal news release.
"With aging, the former athletes maintained their physically active lifestyle better than the controls," wrote Dr. Merja Laine, at the University of Helsinki, and colleagues.
Although the study found a reduced risk of developing diabetes among elite athletes, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion outlines steps to prevent type 2 diabetes.