Changes in the human environment and in human behavior and lifestyle, in conjunction with genetic susceptibility, have resulted in a dramatic increase in the incidence and prevalence of diabetes in the world. The rapid escalation of the number of people with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and diabetes-related cardiovascular disease demands urgent action on prevention. The Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study and The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that the prevention (or delaying) of T2DM is feasible and effective. Both of these trials led to a reduction of 58% in the conversion to diabetes in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. Compared to lifestyle changes, drug treatment in the prevention of diabetes in people at high risk for T2DM has been less beneficial. Metformin (31%) or acarbose (25%) treatment obtained only about a half of the reduction in the conversion to diabetes compared to lifestyle changes. These drugs require monitoring, and have significant side-effects. Also the effect of orlistat (37%) did not reach the effect of lifestyle modification. Results of the Troglitazone in Prevention of Diabetes study are suggestive for the prevention, but the trial was too small, and included only one ethnic group (Hispanic) and one gender (women). On the basis of the evidence available, we do not have a definite proof that T2DM is prevented in any of these trials. However, we can safely conclude that the current evidence strongly favors the notion that lifestyle changes are the primary means to tackle the epidemic of T2DM.
Keywords: type diabetes, prevention, lifestyle, drug treatment