Prevention of Diabetes

There’s no pill, supplement, or vaccination to prevent diabetes. The best prevention for Type 2 Diabetes is a healthy lifestyle with diet, weight control, and exercise. However, there is no known prevention for Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes).

Type 2 Diabetes can be somewhat prevented with lifestyle changes. Usually this means losing weight and healthy exercise. A person who is at risk of Type 2 Diabetes (e.g. a parent had Type 2 diabetes), or who has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, can often prevent or greatly delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes with these basic life changes. However, it is important to understand that this hasn’t really prevented diabetes completely; the disease may still be there, but is dormant due to good lifestyle choices.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. Lifestyle issues such as diet, weight and exercise have little to do with the cause of Type 1 diabetes and are not an effective prevention. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease and the triggers are not fully understood.

   •   •   •

Back to: « Diabetes

Prevention of Diabetes

Small Steps to Diabetes Prevention:

Recent studies have proven that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes can often prevent or delay the onset of diabetes with 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week and by losing 5 to 7% of their body weight. In other words, you don’t have to knock yourself out to prevent diabetes. The key is: small steps lead to big rewards. Here are some tips that might help.

EASY STEPS to increase activity:

  • Put away the TV remote control and get up to change the channel.
  • Try walking around the house while you talk on the phone.
  • Park the car farther away from stores, movie theaters or your office.
  • Get off the bus one stop early, if you are in a safe place to walk.
  • Visit museums, the zoo or an aquarium. These are great ways to be active with your family.

EAT RIGHT. Try some of these tips to get started:

  • You don’t have to cut out the foods you love to eat. Just cut down on the amount you eat, and eat them less often.
  • Try to keep meat, poultry and fish servings down to three ounces - that’s about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Try to eat three sensible meals at regular times throughout the day.
  • Eat more fresh fruit, veggies, nuts and whole grains.
  • Limit fried foods. Baking and broiling are healthier ways to eat meat, chicken and fish.
  • When eating out, share large portions.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)1

   •   •   •

A crucial fact revealed by diabetes research is that, whatever your ethnic background, if you are at high risk for developing diabetes, you can still lower your chance of getting it by losing a modest amount of weight, lowering the fat and calories in your diet, and increasing your physical activity to 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)2

   •   •   •

Can diabetes be prevented?

Type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes cannot currently be prevented, but this is an active area of research.

Source: NICHD (NIH)3

   •   •   •

Research also shows that there may be ways to prevent type 2 diabetes in some people. Lifestyle changes are a good way to start. In one large study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, people at high risk for type 2 diabetes who made these types of lifestyle changes lowered their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58%.

Also, remember that such changes can lower risks of developing other health problems associated with diabetes. Ask your health care provider or a diabetes educator for other ideas to meet your specific needs.

Source: NICHD (NIH)4

   •   •   •

Can diabetes be prevented?

Researchers are making progress in identifying the exact genetics and "triggers" that predispose some individuals to develop type 1 diabetes, but prevention remains elusive.

A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity.

Source: CDC5

   •   •   •

Is there anything I can do to prevent type 1 diabetes?

Researchers do not know how to prevent type 1 diabetes. Researchers are still looking for ways to prevent type 1 diabetes in women and girls by studying their close relatives who have diabetes.

Is there anything I can do to prevent type 2 diabetes?

Yes. Many studies, including the large Diabetes Prevention Program study, have proven that you can prevent diabetes by losing weight. Weight loss through healthy eating and more physical activity improves the way your body uses insulin and glucose.

  • Weight loss: Obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes. Calculate your BMI to see whether you’re at a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese, start making small changes to your eating habits and get more physical activity. Even a small amount of weight loss (7%, or about 14 pounds for a 200-pound woman) can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating healthy: Choose vegetables, whole grains (such as whole wheat or rye bread, whole grain cereal, or brown rice), beans, and fruit. Read food labels to help you choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Limit processed foods and sugary foods and drinks.
  • Getting active. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week and limit the amount of time you spend sitting.

Learn how to eat healthier and get more physical activity.

Source: OWH (DHHS)6

   •   •   •

If you have wondered or possibly been told that you are at risk for developing diabetes or that you have prediabetes, you should know that diabetes prevention is proven, possible, and powerful. Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight, if they are overweight—that's 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.

Two keys to success:

  1. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week.
  2. Eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and reduce the number of calories you eat per day.

In other words, you don't have to knock yourself out to prevent diabetes. The key is: small steps that lead to big rewards. Learn more about your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and the small steps you can take to delay or prevent the disease and live a long, healthy life.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)7

   •   •   •

Take Small Steps to Prevent Diabetes

When you take steps to prevent diabetes, you will also lower your risk for possible complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and other health problems. That's a big reward for you and your family and friends.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)8

Prevention of Diabetes

Physical Activity: Moving more and sitting less can reduce your risk for many serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain kinds of cancer. Some studies suggest that physical activity can have mental benefits as well, helping to relieve depression and maintain thinking abilities as you age. Healthful physical activity includes exercise as well as many everyday activities, such as doing active chores around the house, yard work, or walking the dog.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)9

   •   •   •


  1. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): 2005/ November2005/ docs/ 01features_01.htm
  2. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): 2005/ November2005/ docs/ 01features_02.htm
  3. Source: NICHD (NIH): health/ topics/ diabetes/ conditioninfo/ Pages/ faqs.aspx
  4. ibid.
  5. Source: CDC: diabetes/ basics/ diabetes.html
  6. Source: OWH (DHHS): a-z-topics/ diabetes
  7. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall14/ articles/ fall14pg12-13.html
  8. ibid.
  9. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): issue/ may2015/ feature1

   •   •   •

Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.