Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes by Lifestyle Changes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Nutrients. 2019;11(11)

Plain language summary

With Type 2 Diabetes growing globally this paper analyses whether T2D is preventable with lifestyle measures including diet. Seven RCTs were included for review with a total of 4090 participants, and 2466 incidents of T2D, and were chosen on the basis that the lifestyle interventions included both physical exercise and diet (typically Mediterranean Diet). They found that diet and lifestyle intervention reduced the risk of T2D by 47%. Sustained risk reduction was also found in follow-up studies up to 10 years later with participants maintaining improved blood glucose control. Lifestyle interventions may also reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Weight reduction was considered a cornerstone of preventing T2D and adherence to lifestyle changes a key element in long term prevention. Dietary foods reviewed include processed meats, white rice and sugars which correlated highly with T2D whilst leafy greens, berries, wholegrains, legumes, dietary fibre and yoghurt correlate with a lower risk of T2D. Dietary patterns of skipping breakfast and snacking correlate higher with T2D. Different criteria for evaluating physical activity estimate that it reduces risk factors by 50%. In conclusion there is high evidence that lifestyle factors which optimise diet, increase physical activity and promote weight reduction are preventative factors for T2D and can be sustained long term.


Prevention of type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a great challenge worldwide. The aim of this evidence synthesis was to summarize the available evidence in order to update the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) clinical practice guidelines for nutrition therapy. We conducted a systematic review and, where appropriate, meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) (six studies) or dysmetabolism (one study) to answer the following questions: What is the evidence that T2D is preventable by lifestyle changes? What is the optimal diet (with a particular focus on diet quality) for prevention, and does the prevention of T2D result in a lower risk of late complications of T2D? The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach was applied to assess the certainty of the trial evidence. Altogether seven RCTs (N = 4090) fulfilled the eligibility criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. The diagnosis of incident diabetes was based on an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The overall risk reduction of T2D by the lifestyle interventions was 0.53 (95% CI 0.41; 0.67). Most of the trials aimed to reduce weight, increase physical activity, and apply a diet relatively low in saturated fat and high in fiber. The PREDIMED trial that did not meet eligibility criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis was used in the final assessment of diet quality. We conclude that T2D is preventable by changing lifestyle and the risk reduction is sustained for many years after the active intervention (high certainty of evidence). Healthy dietary changes based on the current recommendations and the Mediterranean dietary pattern can be recommended for the long-term prevention of diabetes. There is limited or insufficient data to show that prevention of T2D by lifestyle changes results in a lower risk of cardiovascular and microvascular complications.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Hormonal ; Structural
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Diabetes
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Physical exercise
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Exercise and movement
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood ; Urine
Bioactive Substances : None

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 4
Allocation concealment : Yes
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Review