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Activity alone fails to reduce incidence of type 2 diabetes

Increasing physical activity only significantly reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes in at-risk patients when combined with diet, according to a new review.

Exercise and diet was found to significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 37%, compared to standard recommendations such as advice or education on increasing physical activity.

Exercise on its own reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes incidence by 31% compared to standard recommendations, but this was not significant.

The exercise and diet intervention also significantly reduced fasting plasma glucose, compared to standard recommendations, with a mean difference between the two of -0.19 mmol/L.

The review featured eight trials with a total of 5,956 participants. All individuals belonged to a major risk group for the development of type 2 diabetes, such as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose.

The conclusions reinforce recent NICE guidance on preventing diabetes which emphasises the need for structured, intensive lifestyle modification programmes in those with impaired glucose tolerance.

Cochrane 2012, available online