Best Evidence Summary for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes for Adults

by | May 23, 2015 | Research Topics

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to control glucose (sugar) levels.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 – when the body can’t produce enough insulin, which is a substance that helps control glucose. People with Type 1 diabetes need to be given injections of insulin to stay well.
  • Type 2 – when the body is still making some insulin, but it is not able to be used properly by the body. Regular medication is needed to help control glucose. (5)

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by:

  • Walking or any other exercise or movement for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Eating foods that release glucose more slowly than the foods which give a quick release of sugar –slow release foods are called low GI (low glycaemic index foods)
  • Lose at least 5-7% of weight. So a 100 kg person who loses 5-7kgs reduces their risk of Type 2 diabetes or delays getting Type 2 diabetes. (5)

Health professionals should encourage and support patients to try these things first. Some patients may still need medication and/or surgery to help them. When needed, the evidence suggests that medications such as metformin, acarbose, rosiglitazone and orlistat are effective in preventing/delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in high risk individuals. For high risk people who are very overweight (morbidly obese) bariatric (stomach) surgery can prevent or delay progression to type 2 diabetes. (5)

Why worry about Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes has a major impact on health and the cost of health care. Type 2 diabetes causes the fine blood vessels in the body to block up and not work properly, which can lead to:

  • heart disease and stroke
  • foot sores that lead to ulceration, gangrene and lower limb amputation (people often lose feeling in their feet and sores are hard to heal- important to talk about foot care and regular checking of feet)
  • kidney failure
  • problems with eyes (Type 2 diabetes is the most common cause of blindness in people under 60 in Australia)
  • erectile dysfunction (problems for men having sex)

Who is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes?

  • People with a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Men
  • Some ethnic groups -people born in Southern Europe, in North Africa and the Middle East or in the Pacific Islands and South Asia and especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • People who were born with a low birth weight
  • People who are overweight or use to be obese
    • A high BMI (body mass index- the measure of overall fat in the body) is a significant predictor of type 2 diabetes.
    • Obese men are at higher risk than obese women, especially those with fat deposited within the abdomen around the body organs
  • People who do little or no physical activity – sedentary
  • Age increases the prevalence and risk until age 75
  • Dietary intake – people who don’t eat a lot of high GI, fatty foods
  • People who smoke
  • People who have a lot of stress in their lives
  • People who have other illnesses or conditions such as
  • Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) –diabetes in pregnancy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • The Metabolic Syndrome (5)

What can practitioners do?

  • Identify people at high risk by using The Australian Risk Assessment Tool (AUSDRISK) ( p117)
  • Risk assessment should begin at age 40 or from age 18 in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders*.
  • Risk assessment should be repeated every 3 years.
  • Educate about lifestyle, -activity, diet, risk factors (5)

The key message from the evidence is that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by:

  • early detection of risk, through the use of appropriate assessment tools
  • community and individual education about risk factors
  • regular review and support with Type 2 diabetes prevention efforts and/or management

This will reduce the significant burden on people, their families, and the health resources of the country.
Aboriginal Health Practitioners can make a difference to improved outcomes for Aboriginal communities by helping people know their risk for Type 2 diabetes, educating about the prevention or delay of this disease and using best practice for management.

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2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2008). Diabetes: Australian Facts 2008. Diabetes Series No. 8. Cat. no. CVD 40. AIHW, Canberra, Australia.
3. Bako A, Morad S, Atiomo W (2005). Polycystic ovary syndrome: an overview. Rev in Gynaecol Pract 5:115-122.
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6. International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 2006. Diabetes Atlas, third edition, 1H (accessed
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16. ¹ Colagiuri R, Girgis S, Gomez M, Walker K, Colagiuri S, O’Dea K. National Evidence Based Guideline for the Primary Prevention of
Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Australia and the NHMRC, Canberra 2009.

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