People were counseled to reduce the amount of food they ate and to cut down on sugar and alcohol, Gregg said. "People were encouraged to eat more vegetables and increase their levels of physical activity," he added.
The study began in 1986, and these groups continued their diet and/or exercise programs until 1992. In 2006, the people in the study were seen again to determine the long-term effect of diet and exercise.
Gregg's team found lifestyle interventions reduced the incidence of diabetes by 51 percent over the six years of the program.
Moreover, over the whole 20-year period, the incidence of diabetes was reduced by 43 percent in those people who had been in diet and exercise programs.
On average, the incidence of newly diagnosed diabetes was 7 percent for people who had participated in diet and exercise programs, compared with 11 percent for people who hadn't, the researchers reported.
By the 20th year, 80 percent of those who had participated in a diet and exercise program had developed diabetes, compared with 93 percent of the people who did not participate in such a program. People who had been in a diet and exercise program, spent 3.6 fewer years with diabetes than people who hadn't, Gregg's team found.
Gregg believes that similar programs could be effective in the United States. "Interventions used in this study are similar to interventions that have been used in the United States and do work," he said.
One expert says that despite these impressive results, the study does have a couple of important limitations.
"The majority of study participants in both intervention and control groups went on to develop diabetes eventually," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "Moreover, the study is unable to prove that the intervention c
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