Lifestyle Changes Via Low-Cost Interventions May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Making lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can lower an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, says a new study published in the June 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which high levels of sugar in the blood that arise due to problems with insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an inability to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused by an inability to respond correctly to insulin.

Conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the City of Berkeley Department of Public Health, the study followed 230 participants who were residents in the poor, urban neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Richmond, Oakland, and Berkeley and who were at risk for developing diabetes. Each month for six months, half of the participants were contacted by phone and given specific dietary guidance and other lifestyle counseling that were aimed at lowering their diabetes risks.

After six months, the participants who had received the telephone counseling had lost two more pounds on average than participants in the control group that had not received counseling. Those who received the lifestyle counseling were also consuming fewer grams of fat and more fruits and vegetables each day.

More important, the participants receiving the phone counseling showed more improvements with decreased triglyceride levels. High blood triglycerides are a key risk measure for type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a major health problems for individuals living in urban, poor, and predominantly minority communities. However, as doctors have been arguing for years, type 2 diabetes is a highly preventable disease. Through simple lifestyle changes such as eating healthy food and getting regular exercise, the participants in this study were able to lower their risk of acquiring the disease.

As Alka Kanaya, MD, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF and one of two senior authors of the study, states in a press release for UCSF:

“Diabetes is not something you are necessarily going to get just because it runs in your family. It is very preventable, and lifestyle changes can really impact the onset of diabetes.”

Furthermore, this study illustrates that low-cost community-based approaches such as telephone counseling are effective in getting individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes to make lifestyle changes. Previous studies had been designed in clinical settings and included separate sessions with numerous health professionals. Many of the individuals most at risk for type 2 diabetes come from poor, minority, and low-literacy populations, and many do not have health insurance, making more traditional interventions too costly or inaccessible.

Getting the patients most at risk for the disease to make lifestyle changes, however, can be as easy as using low-cost interventions such as telephone counseling.

Would you be more apt to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you received counseling over the phone instead of through more traditional and often more costly means?