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"Small Steps, Big Rewards": Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

The good news is type 2 diabetes can be delayed and possibly prevented by:

  • losing a modest amount of weight
  • exercising 30 minutes a day five times a week
  • choosing healthy foods and reducing calories and fat in the diet

These are the plain facts in "Small Steps. Big Rewards: Prevent Type 2 Diabetes," an education campaign of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) to stem the growing epidemic of diabetes. The program is a beacon of hope to millions of Americans with pre-diabetes (higher than normal blood glucose levels but not yet diabetes).

"Fifty-seven million Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes," says Joanne Gallivan, M.S, R.D., NDEP director at the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). "They can delay or possibly prevent it. It boils down to following a healthy lifestyle by taking small steps that can lead to a big reward, such as eating smaller portions and walking upstairs instead of taking the elevator."

The NDEP campaign stems from findings of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a landmark study sponsored by the NIH. The study found that people at increased risk for type 2 diabetes can delay or possibly prevent its onset if they lose five to seven percent of their body weight through a combination of increased physical activity and a reduced-fat, lower-calorie diet. For a 200-pound person, it means losing about 10 pounds.

The DPP and its follow-up study proved that modest weight loss could effectively delay or possibly prevent type 2 diabetes in all high-risk groups.

"People should share this important information with their families, especially if they already have diabetes," Gallivan urges.

NIH Research to Results

  • The NDEP developed an education campaign, Small Steps, Big Rewards: Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, to help people at high risk take the necessary steps to prevent the disease ( Over 200 private partners have joined this effort.
  • Minority populations are disproportionately affected by diabetes (African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders). For example, African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. Research is under way to study the biological, cultural, and socioeconomic factors that may influence the development of diabetes.
  • The SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study has provided the first national data on prevalence of diabetes in youth: 1 of every 523 youth had physician-diagnosed diabetes in 2001 (this number included both type 1 and type 2 diabetes). SEARCH has also provided the first data on the rate of development of new cases of childhood diabetes and will continue to monitor trends in the future.

Fall 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 4 Page 10