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Understanding Diabetes 2019

How diet and nutrition can prevent and manage Type 2 diabetes

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Douglas Twenefour

Deputy Head of Care, Diabetes UK

Diabetes is the most devastating and fastest growing health crisis of our time. The number of people with the condition has doubled in the last 20 years, mainly due to the growing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes.

Right now, there are 3.8 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes – 90% of those with Type 2. What’s more, we estimate a million more are living with Type 2 diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed.

What causes Type 2 diabetes?

There are many factors that can contribute to someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, including ethnicity, age and family history. But, the main driver in the rise in cases of Type 2 diabetes is the dramatic increase in obesity.

While we know that our society doesn’t always make the healthy choice the easy choice, there are things you can do to look after your health and prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes and the serious complications it can lead to.

How can I reduce my risk of Type 2 diabetes?

If you’re overweight or obese, the best way to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is to lose weight. We know that three in five cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with weight loss.

But we also know that losing weight isn’t easy, and knowing where to start can be overwhelming. However, evidence shows that a number of different dietary approaches are effective.

Ultimately, finding an approach you can stick to makes it more likely you’ll be successful in losing weight and reducing your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.

Whatever diet you chose, there are some simple changes that can make a big difference. These include eating less red and processed meat and, instead, getting protein from plant sources, cheese, yoghurt, lean poultry and oily fish; eating more fruit and vegetables and wholegrains; and cutting down on sugary drinks, sugar and other refined carbohydrates in your diet.

Managing Type 2 diabetes through weight loss

Managing your weight can also help manage Type 2 diabetes, and – for some people – can even put the condition into remission, in turn reducing the risk of devastating complications.

The Diabetes UK-funded DiRECT trial showed that a low-calorie diet can, for some people, put Type 2 diabetes into remission for at least two years.

This has the potential to completely change the way we treat Type 2 diabetes in the future.

Find out your risk

You can find out your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by accessing Diabetes UK’s free ‘Know Your Risk’ tool at The evidence-based tool consists of seven simple questions, and will help you understand the steps you could take to manage your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

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