Can diet and exercise reverse prediabetes?
As diabetes is a risk factor for many other diseases and chronic health conditions
ISLAMABAD, (ONLINE) - Prediabetes is a warning sign that an individual is at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If it goes unmanaged, prediabetes can lead to long-term damage, including to the heart and blood vessels. But is there any way it can be reversed? And can this be achieved by changes in diet and exercise?
Diabetes — specifically type 2 diabetes— is becoming one of the most challenging health problems of the 21st century. By 2025, 380 million peopleTrusted Source worldwide are also expected to be diagnosed with diabetes.
As diabetes is a risk factor for many other diseases and chronic health conditions — cardiovascular disease, renal disease, stroke, and blindness to name a few — its management and treatment is ever more crucial.
However, before people go on to develop type 2 diabetes, many people are considered in a precursor stage called prediabetes. This is a health condition in which people experience higher than healthy blood sugar levels — but not so much that it can be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, having prediabetes is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
When it comes to scaling this problem, looking at the statistics of people with prediabetes paints a clear picture: over one in threeTrusted Source people in the U.S. and the U.K. are diagnosed with prediabetes.
So, if prediabetes is seen as an early warning sign for type 2 diabetes, is there nothing people can do to correct their course? Could serious lifestyle changes not reverse this condition?
These questions and more were the topic of discussion for our May podcast “In Conversation: Can diet and exercise help reverse prediabetes?” Joining Dr. Hilary Guite and me this month were Dr. Thomas Barber, associate clinical professor at Warwick Medical School and consultant endocrinologist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, and Healthline Media and Medical News Today Managing Editor Angela Chao, who shared her story about how she reversed her prediabetes diagnosis and the lifestyle changes she made to sustain it.
You can listen to this month’s episode below or on your preferred streaming platform:
How to measure prediabetes
Diabetes and prediabetes used to be diagnosed based on fasting glucose readings, or a standard glucose tolerance test, said Dr. Barber. This test involved ingesting 75 grams of a sugary drink and then measuring blood sugar levels over the next two hours.
The definition of prediabetes is also an ever-evolving one, and it may differ from country to country.
“Different societies and esteemed groups have different definitions. And I think the first point to make really is that whether we’re talking about diabetes or prediabetes is that we’re talking about a continuum,” said Dr. Barber.
If we take the U.S. and the U.K. as examples, we can see differences in the units of measurement and the thresholds used to diagnose prediabetes.
“[It] is a bit confusing because as you say, there are different units. But essentially, in the U.K., we use millimoles per liter for glucose, and in the U.S., it’s milligrams per deciliter. Millimoles per mole is what we tend to use clinically now and have done for some years,” said Dr. Barber.
“I think to add to the confusion, there’s also the hemoglobin A1C, which also has two separate units in terms of percentage, which is what we always traditionally used and now which has been superseded by millimoles per mole,” he continued.