JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Diet, nutrition and the prevention of type 2 diabetes

N P Steyn, J Mann, P H Bennett, N Temple, P Zimmet, J Tuomilehto, J Lindström, A Louheranta
Public Health Nutrition 2004, 7 (1): 147-65
14972058

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.

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