Diabetes study calls for lifestyle changes
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Americans can greatly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by exercising, eating a low-fat diet and losing weight, according to the results of a three-year clinical study released on Wednesday.

Through lifestyle changes, those at high-risk -- including Native Americans -- for the disease can cut their chances of developing it by 58 percent, said the National Institutes of Health study. Exercising 30 minutes a day, even just by walking, and losing 10 to 15 pounds can have a great effect on what has become an epidemic in Indian Country, said health officials.

The Diabetes Prevention Program is the first large study to determine the effects of exercise and diet on diabetes. It began in 1996 and ended a year early because it was successful in proving lifestyle modifications can significantly impact the disease.

In the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the results are "exciting news . . . exciting proof that when it comes to diabetes, prevention works!"

"If we make some modest adjustments in how much we eat or exercise, we can prevent so much illness and death, and save billions in health care costs," he said at a press conference yesterday, which was attended by a number of Native health leaders.

But if it sounds easier said than done, it should. As anyone who has combatted weight gain will point out, losing pounds, even the 10 or 15 as shown by the study, is a tough task. And as the government reported the results of the clinical study, they did it in conflicting, if just slightly so, terms.

While Thompson called the changes in diet and exercise "reasonable," the study pointed out they were also "intensive." Participants in the "intensive" group exercised 150 minutes a week.

The study also showed that use of a drug called metformin reduces the risk of diabetes by 31 percent. Hoping to persuade Americans to take the exercise and diet route, the government said the drug provided less dramatic results.

Still, with diabetes showing up in Native Americans at earlier and earlier ages, the results of the study are welcome news. Prevention programs could be implemented at younger ages, thus reducing the risk of amputation, kidney failure and blindness.

Some 16 million Americans suffer from diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death. It develops when the pancreas cannot , causing blood sugar levels to soar.

Alaska Natives and American Indians have been greatly impacted by the disease. According to the the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nine percent of Native Americans have it.

In some tribes, such as the Pima of Arizona, up to 50 percent over the age of 35 have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Yesterday's study showed that lifestyle changes worked well in men and women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Of the 3,234 participants, ages 25 to 85, enrolled in the study, 45 percent were minorities.

Get Thompson's Remarks:
Press Conference Announcing Results of Diabetes Prevention Program (HHS 8/8)

Relevant Links:
Diabetes Prevention Program -
National Diabetes Program, Indian Health Service -
Diabetes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -
Prevalence of Diabetes by state -
Diabetes Care -

Only on Indianz.Com:
Diabetes Links and Resources (4/10)

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