Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Diet, nutrition and the prevention of type 2 diabetes

NP Steyna1 c1, J Manna2, PH Bennetta3, N Templea4, P Zimmeta5, J Tuomilehtoa6, J Lindströma6 and A Louherantaa7

a1 Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit, Medical Research Council (MRC), Tygerberg, South Africa

a2 Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

a3 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

a4 Centre for Science, Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada

a5 International Diabetes Institute, Caulfield South, Australia

a6 National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

a7 Department of Clinical Nutrition, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland

Abstract

Objectives: The overall objective of this study was to evaluate and provide evidence and recommendations on current published literature about diet and lifestyle in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

Design: Epidemiological and experimental studies, focusing on nutritional intervention in the prevention of type 2 diabetes are used to make disease-specific recommendations. Long-term cohort studies are given the most weight as to strength of evidence available.

Setting and subjects: Numerous clinical trials and cohort studies in low, middle and high income countries are evaluated regarding recommendations for dietary prevention of type 2 diabetes. These include, among others, the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, US Diabetes Prevention Program, Da Qing Study; Pima Indian Study; Iowa Women's Health Study; and the study of the US Male Physicians.

Results: There is convincing evidence for a decreased risk of diabetes in adults who are physically active and maintain a normal body mass index (BMI) throughout adulthood, and in overweight adults with impaired glucose tolerance who lose weight voluntarily. An increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes is associated with overweight and obesity; abdominal obesity; physical inactivity; and maternal diabetes. It is probable that a high intake of saturated fats and intrauterine growth retardation also contribute to an increased risk, while non-starch polysaccharides are likely to be associated with a decreased risk. From existing evidence it is also possible that omega-3 fatty acids, low glycaemic index foods and exclusive breastfeeding may play a protective role, and that total fat intake and trans fatty acids may contribute to the risk. However, insufficient evidence is currently available to provide convincing proof.

Conclusions: Based on the strength of available evidence regarding diet and lifestyle in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, it is recommended that a normal weight status in the lower BMI range (BMI 21–23) and regular physical activity be maintained throughout adulthood; abdominal obesity be prevented; and saturated fat intake be less than 7% of the total energy intake.

Correspondence

c1 *Corresponding author: Email nelia.steyn@mrc.ac.za

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