How much might achievement of diabetes prevention behaviour goals reduce the incidence of diabetes if implemented at the population level?

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Abstract

Aims/hypothesis

Randomised trials targeting high-risk people with impaired glucose tolerance have halved progression to diabetes using behavioural interventions aimed at achieving five goals related to weight, diet and physical activity. The number of people currently meeting these goals in the general population is unknown. The potential impact on the incidence of diabetes of increasing the proportion of people who meet these goals is also unclear. We quantified the association between the achievement of behavioural goals for the prevention of diabetes and the incidence of diabetes in a population-based cohort study.

Subjects and methods

European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk is a prospective cohort of 24,155 participants aged 40-79 years who attended a baseline health check and completed validated diet and activity questionnaires. We assessed the association between achievement of five diabetes healthy behaviour prevention goals (BMI <25 kg/m2, fat intake <30% of energy intake, saturated fat intake <10% of energy intake, fibre intake ≥15 g/4,184 kJ, physical activity >4 h/week) and risk of developing diabetes at follow-up (mean 4.6 years).

Results

Only 20% of EPIC participants met three or more diabetes prevention goals. Diabetes incidence was inversely related to the number of goals achieved (p<0.001). None of the participants who met all five goals developed diabetes, whereas diabetes incidence was highest in those who did not meet any goals. If the entire population were able to meet one more goal, the total incidence of diabetes would be predicted to fall by 20%.

Conclusions/interpretation

In this population-based study, the risk of diabetes was inversely associated with the number of behaviour goals for diabetes prevention that were met. Interventions that promote achievement of these goals in the general population could significantly reduce the growing burden of diabetes-related morbidity and mortality.

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