Significant success in reducing risk factors for Type 2 diabetes has been achieved in a UK study conducted by an international team of researchers.
Published in Nature journal, the study highlights the potential of the programme's strategies to address the global diabetes epidemic effectively.
The study, conducted by an international team from the UK, Germany, the US, and South Africa, analysed health data from over two million patients.
The researchers concluded that referral to the NHS programme resulted in improved glycaemic control and reductions in Body Mass Index, weight, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides.
“Our findings clearly demonstrate the huge benefits of intensive lifestyle counselling for improving the health of patients with pre-diabetes,” Prof Justine Davies, from the University of Birmingham, a co-author of the study said.
“The positive effects observed in the programme may also extend to other non-communicable diseases such as cancer,” she added.
Prof Davies told The National about the programme's effectiveness and scalability, noting its similarity to other programmes in the US.
“It shows a similar effect size to other similar programmes – which have often been ran in the US – in preventing diabetes,” she said.
“Our previous work has estimated that the absolute global economic burden of diabetes will increase from US $1.3 trillion in 2015 to $2.5 trillion in 2030 … So any small reduction in diabetes prevalence is likely to have large positive effects on both healthcare costs and the global economy.”
Regarding the most effective strategies for promoting lifestyle changes, Prof Davies said: “Even though many medical practitioners are sceptical that short-term lifestyle advice works, this study shows that referral to a dedicated lifestyle programme has positive effects.”
She advocated for the maintenance of the programme in the UK and its consideration for implementation in other countries.
“We should put our scepticism away – this is a programme which beyond doubt works for those who are at high risk and it should be maintained in the UK’s strategy for diabetes reduction and considered for roll out in other countries,” she said.
Julia Lemp, the lead author from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, stressed the urgency of addressing diabetes on a global scale. “There is an urgent need to implement population-based measures that prevent diabetes,” she said.
Ms Lemp also emphasised the significant improvements observed in patients' health measures, such as HbA1c, BMI, body weight, and serum lipid levels.
“We cannot ascertain for how long these health benefits will be sustained and whether they will have downstream effects on population-level diabetes incidence or adverse cardiovascular complications,” she said.