Type 2 Diabetes Reversible, Says ESC on World Diabetes Day

November 14, 2014

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, or reversed with simple lifestyle changes, one diabetes expert representing the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) is stressing on World Diabetes Day.

Given that the theme this year is Healthy Living and Diabetes, Dr Eberhard Standl (Munich Diabetes Research Group, Germany), an ESC spokesperson, is urging use of a simple questionnaire that can help people find out if they are at risk and whether they need to take action.

"The dramatic increase of type 2 diabetes worldwide has exceeded expectations. Globally there are 400 million people with type 2 diabetes and a similar number with the pre-stages of type 2 diabetes," says Dr Standl.

The epidemic seems unstoppable, "but there is very good and strong evidence that people can stop diabetes with lifestyle changes," he urges in an ESC statement issued to coincide with World Diabetes Day.

Meanwhile, the charity Diabetes UK is highlighting "10 Things to Think About on World Diabetes Day."

Globally, someone dies every 7 seconds from diabetes, with an estimated five million deaths attributable to the disease in 2014. And 77% of the total number of people with diabetes now live in low- and middle-income countries with emerging economies, it stresses.

Also, type 1 diabetes is on the rise, it notes.

Researchers are trying to pinpoint the causes of the 3% increase, which means that currently almost 80,000 children every year under the age of 15 develop the disease.

Simple Questionnaire Can Help Guide People as to Risk

The ESC questionnaire asks about age, body mass index, waist circumference, physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, use of antihypertensive medications, history of high blood glucose, and family history of type 1 or 2 diabetes.

Points are given depending on the answers provided, with a score lower than 7 indicating very low risk; 7 to 11, a slightly elevated risk (one in 25 chance of developing type 2 diabetes); 12 to 14, a moderate risk of one in six; 15 to 20, a high risk of one in three; and more than 20, a very high risk of one in two.

"The questionnaire is very easy, and people can do it themselves. A score of 12 or higher indicates that you should take some preventive action. Regular physical exercise is the most important thing you can do, followed by eating fiber-rich foods, limiting saturated fats, and losing weight," says Dr Standl.

"Many people hardly move during their working day and even during leisure time. To reverse or prevent type 2 diabetes, the goal is 30 minutes of decent physical exercise every day. This could be brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling and should be combined with muscle training," he added.

People who want to reverse early diabetes into a pre-stage of diabetes or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing need to lose about 5% of their body weight.

"There is no question that people who have had type 2 diabetes for just a short period of time can reverse it with a low calorie diet. This can be effective within 3 to 5 days. Of course the continuing challenge is to maintain the lower body weight," he says.

And adopting lifestyle changes that prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes in the short term can also prevent death from cardiovascular disease over the long term, Dr Standl stresses.

"If you take the questionnaire and find out you're at risk of diabetes, it's not too late. Making positive changes by being more active, eating a healthy diet, and losing weight can reverse diabetes and is also good for your heart."

Enjoy Food: People With Diabetes Can Eat the Same as Others

Diabetes UK is also marking World Diabetes Day by launching Enjoy Food, a program to help people with diabetes and their families eat more healthily.

The charity stresses that although having a healthy diet is an important part of managing diabetes, people with the condition can eat the same foods as anyone.

This is important to note, it says, because a recent survey commissioned by the charity indicates that only 40% of people would find it easy to tailor a meal for someone with diabetes, and only 62% of people would feel confident asking a guest with diabetes outright what they can and can't eat.

In a statement, Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "It is worrying that so few people would find it easy to tailor a meal for someone with diabetes, as it suggests that there is a common misconception that having the condition has to mean substantial changes to what you eat."

By making small changes to the way they shop, plan, and prepare their meals, people can eat food that is healthy as well as delicious, she says.

Enjoy Food includes recipes, expert diabetes nutritional information, as well as practical guides about shopping for food, meal planning, and healthy swaps.

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