Lifestyle intervention programme can prevent type 2 diabetes

Sebastian Vollmer Photo: Jonathan Michaeli
Sebastian Vollmer Photo: Jonathan Michaeli
Research team including Göttingen University confirm effects of treatment in people at increased risk

More than 500 million people worldwide have diabetes and the number is predicted to rise in the future. A programme that provides recommendations on exercise and nutrition, as well as supporting the implementation of these measures, can prevent type 2 diabetes. This has been shown by an international team of researchers led by University Hospital Heidelberg with the participation of the Universities of Göttingen, Stanford and Birmingham. In this study, the researchers investigated the success of a diabetes prevention programme in England, which has already been incorporated into everyday clinical practice across the country. The target group is people who have elevated blood sugar levels but do not yet have diabetes. The study analysed data from over two million people. The programme was found to have a positive effect on long-term blood glucose levels, body mass index, weight, and blood lipids. The results were published in Nature.

The team used routine data from doctors’ surgeries to investigate how long-term blood glucose levels (as measured by the HbA1c test), weight and blood lipids have changed as a result of the prevention programme. This data is systematically recorded in England and made available for research. In addition to the results of blood tests, it also has information on whether the person is included in the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. This is the case if a certain measurement of long-term blood glucose is exceeded. The researchers compared people who were close to the threshold and thus recently included or excluded from the programme.

"Our research shows the potential of using routine data from the healthcare system to evaluate the effectiveness of various programmes and measures," says Professor Sebastian Vollmer, development economist at the University of Göttingen and co-author of the study. "We would like to use the methods of modern causal inference, which enable us to use data to derive cause-and-effect relationships, to gain similar insights for the German healthcare system. This would contribute to an improvement in care. Unfortunately, however, there is still a long way to go before data from the German healthcare system can be used for research in this way.-

The diabetes prevention programme in England is the largest of its kind. It extends over a period of nine months and is designed as a group intervention. Participants benefit from recommendations about diet and exercise and learn how to set realistic goals for themselves. "This prevention programme could be a model for Germany, as our study has shown that risk factors for diabetes can be successfully prevented in everyday clinical practice," says Julia Lemp, first author of the study and PhD researcher at the Heidelberg Institute of Global Health. In Germany, there are training programmes for people who already have diabetes, but no special prevention programme for people with -prediabetes-, meaning their blood sugar levels are higher than normal indicating an increased risk.

Original publication: Lemp, J. et al. (2023). Quasi-experimental evaluation of a nationwide diabetes prevention program. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586’023 -06756-4

Professor Sebastian Vollmer

University of Göttingen

Professor of Development Economics

Centre for Modern Indian Studies

Waldweg 26, 37073 Göttingen, Germany

(0)551 39-28170