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How To Cut Your Type II Diabetes Risk 90%

Good balance of exercise, weight and diet can do it

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- If you follow all the rules about weight control, physical activity, diet and smoking, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 90 percent, a new study finds.

The single best way to assess your risk of developing diabetes is to look at your waistline, the study says. And think about how much physical activity you've done lately.

"This study found that at least 60 percent of Type II diabetes cases are attributed to overweight and obesity. If you consider it in combination with lack of exercise, the combination explains about 85 percent of all Type II diabetes cases," says Dr. Frank B. Hu, assistant professor in the department of medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Type II diabetes usually develops during adult life, when the body cannot produce enough insulin or make efficient use of the insulin it produces. While other studies have shown a strong risk related to obesity and physical activity, Hu and his colleagues got firm numbers from the Nurses' Health study, which has tracked nearly 90,000 women for more than a decade.

When the study started in 1980, none of the nurses had Type II diabetes. By 1996, 3,200 cases were diagnosed. The Harvard team checked the periodic reports on study participants about exercise, diet, smoking and other lifestyle factors to see which affected diabetes risk the most.

"Overweight or obesity was the single most important predictor of diabetes. Lack of exercise, a poor diet, current smoking and abstinence from alcohol use were all associated with a significantly increased risk of diabetes," the researchers write in the Sept. 13 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Moderate alcohol consumption -- a drink a day or so -- now is regarded as good for several reasons, largely because it is known to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Hu says the good news in the report is that people who do follow the rules can decrease the risk of diabetes so substantially,

"Even moderate changes in lifestyle can have a substantial influence on risk. This information is worthy of repetition because so many people do not recognize the importance of lifestyle in terms of diabetes," he says.

Failure to follow the lifestyle recommendations shows up clearly in national statistics. One recent report says the incidence of diabetes has gone up 49 percent since 1990, while the incidence of obesity increased 61 percent in the 1990s.

"I think our study is a powerful indication that most cases of Type II diabetes can be prevented," Hu says.

What To Do

Keep your weight under control, eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber, engage in physical activity 30 minutes a day, don't smoke and reward yourself with a daily glass of wine and you will lessen your risk of heart disease as well as diabetes, experts say.

The basic rules for a healthy lifestyle and how it affects diabetes are outlined by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: Interview with Frank B. Hu, M.D., assistant professor, department of nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Sept. 13, 2001, The New England Journal of Medicine
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