Obesity and Reducing the Risk of Diabetes

September 21, 2011 By: office 52 Comments

As obesity trends continue to rise, so does the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. The risk can be greatly reduced by making healthy lifestyle choices, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Corbett Dorren.

Adults, middle-aged and up, can cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by as much as 80 percent by adhering to a combination of five healthy lifestyle habits, according to a new analysis.

The new analysis comes from The National Institutes of Health, which examined the individual factors that can lower the risk of developing diabetes and other diseases – healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, and consuming alcohol moderately.

Link Between Healthy Lifestyle and Diabetes

Healthy lifestyle factors which may decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes include healthy eating, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and moderate alcohol consumption.

The analysis shows that keeping just one of these five healthy lifestyle factors can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. More than 200,000 people who participated in the study were between ages 50 and 71 when the study began in 1995. At the study’s start, participants had no signs of heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

Study participants filled out detailed questionnaires about what kinds of foods they ate, whether they consumed alcohol, and if they were current or former smokers. Other questions asked how much the participants exercised and their weight and height so that body mass index could be calculated. Study participants were followed for about 11 years. During that time, about 10 percent of men in the study and 8 percent of women developed diabetes.

Researchers grouped participants into lifestyle categories ranging from “best” to “worst.” People in the best category had all five healthy lifestyle factors, while those in the worst had none. For diet, participants received a score of one to five based on fruit and vegetable consumption, the amount of and type of fat they ate and other factors. Those who scored in the top 40 percent were considered to have a healthy diet. Exercising three times a week for at least 20 minutes and being a nonsmoker for at least 10 years were two additional healthy lifestyle factors. Alcohol consumption of no more than one drink a day for women and two for men was considered as another factor, along with weight. People with a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 – a body mass considered normal – were counted as being in the lowest-risk category for weight.

According to the researcher in charge of the analysis, Dr. Jared Reis, the average study participant had two out of the five healthy lifestyle factors. Researchers found body mass index to have the strongest association to diabetes risk, when compared with the other factors. When looking at body mass index in isolation, men of normal weight were 70 percent less likely to develop diabetes than overweight or obese men, while normal weight women were 78 percent less likely to develop diabetes.

Researchers also found that men and women whose diet and exercise were both considered in the healthy range were just under 30 percent less likely to develop diabetes. When being a nonsmoker was added to diet and exercise, those people were about one-third less likely to develop the disease.

Men who consumed alcohol moderately, in addition to the previous three factors, were 39 percent less likely to develop diabetes while women had 57 percent lower odds. When body mass index was added to the other healthy lifestyle factors, men were 72 percent less likely to develop diabetes, while women had an 84 percent lower risk.

Despite all of these findings, Dr. Reis added that even overweight people can lower their odds of developing diabetes if they adopt just one other healthy lifestyle habit such as exercising three times a week for at least 20 minutes each day.

These studies reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle. At Shane Diet Resorts weight loss camp for adults, healthy diet and physical activity are just two of the healthy lifestyle factors that guests experience daily and will in turn, impact body mass index. Not only will a healthy weight and lifestyle lower the risk for diabetes, but for other health risks as well.

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