Preventing type 2 diabetes – does it work?

Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes. If someone has high blood sugar levels, does it help if they exercise more and adjust their diet? We’ll explain.

03.02.2023 Tanja Kühnle 2 minutes

Type 2 diabetes is when insulin absorption by the body’s cells is disrupted, causing a person’s blood sugar level to permanently increase. The illness can develop unnoticed for years and often only becomes noticeable in old age. That’s why you hear about adult-onset diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Some indications of this hidden illness can include being very thirsty, frequent urination, fatigue and lack of motivation, nausea or dizziness. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include excessive body weight, a low-fibre, high-fat and high-sugar diet and not enough exercise.

What is a pre-diabetic stage?

The term “pre-diabetic stage” is used when someone does not yet have any symptoms of diabetes but their blood sugar level is elevated even if they haven’t consumed food. In this case, there is a greater risk of developing diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels can be detected early on and lowered by taking various measures. How much of an effect can a balanced diet and sufficient exercise have?

Study findings on diabetes prevention

The Harding Centre for Risk Literacy at the University of Potsdam has used scientific studies to summarise the potential benefits and risks of measures to prevent individuals with slightly elevated blood sugar levels from developing type 2 diabetes.

Two groups were compared against each another in eleven studies encompassing around 4,500 participants. As part of standard care, one group received information brochures and practical tips for leading a healthy lifestyle from their general practitioner, as well as an annual blood sugar level check. In the second group, a systematic change in diet was combined with targeted physical activity such as fast-paced walking, jogging or swimming. Participants in both groups were observed for an average of six years.

How many people developed diabetes?

Around 26 in 100 people who received standard care developed type 2 diabetes from the pre-diabetic stage over the following six years. By contrast, 15 in 100 people who maintained a change in diet and targeted physical activity developed type 2 diabetes from the pre-diabetic stage. By changing their diet and doing targeted physical activity, it was possible to prevent 11 in 100 people from being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Were there any adverse events?

Aside from the usual risks associated with physical activity, there were no adverse events.


In summary, people with pre-diabetes can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the short term with a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. This also helps to reduce body weight. It remains unclear, however, how many people were able to protect themselves from diabetes in the long term and avoid secondary issues. We hope you now have a clearer overview of this complex issue.

Do you have any other questions?

Do you have questions about preventing type 2 diabetes? Or would you like to know about other health-related issues? Our health advisors provide you with helpful information and specific recommendations.

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Read more

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