Delaying diabetes onset by four years significantly reduces mortality and complication risks

New research demonstrates that individuals with prediabetes can substantially improve their long-term health outcomes by postponing the onset of type 2 diabetes for just four years through lifestyle modifications.



Prediabetes intervention yields long-term benefits

A recent study published in PLOS Medicine [1] has revealed that individuals diagnosed with prediabetes can significantly reduce their risk of mortality and diabetes-related complications by delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes for a minimum of four years. The research, conducted by Guangwei Li and colleagues from the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, provides compelling evidence for the long-term benefits of early intervention in prediabetic individuals.

Methodology and study design

The investigation analysed health outcomes from 540 prediabetic participants in the original Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Study, a landmark six-year trial initiated in 1986 in Da Qing City, China. Participants were allocated to either a control group or one of three lifestyle intervention groups, which involved dietary modifications, increased physical activity, or a combination of both. The study’s extended follow-up period of over 30 years allowed researchers to assess long-term health outcomes comprehensively.

Four-year threshold emerges as critical factor

Li’s team evaluated the long-term risk of mortality, cardiovascular events (including myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure), and other diabetes-related complications among the trial participants. Their findings revealed a significant reduction in mortality risk and cardiovascular events for individuals who maintained non-diabetic status for at least four years following their initial prediabetes diagnosis. This protective effect was not observed in participants who developed diabetes within this four-year threshold.

Implications for preventive management

The study’s results underscore the importance of early intervention in prediabetic individuals. Even a relatively short delay in diabetes onset can yield substantial long-term health benefits. As Li and colleagues note, “This study suggests that a longer duration of non-diabetes status in those with IGT has beneficial health outcomes and reduces mortality. The implementation of effective interventions targeting those with IGT should be considered as part of preventative management for diabetes and diabetes related vascular complications.”

Whilst the study provides valuable insights into the long-term benefits of delaying diabetes onset, further research is needed to explore the generalisability of these findings to diverse populations and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of intensive lifestyle interventions in prediabetic individuals.

  1. Qian, X., Wang, J., Gong, Q., et. al. (2024). Non-diabetes status after diagnosis of impaired glucose tolerance and risk of long-term death and vascular complications: A post hoc analysis of the Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Outcome Study. PLOS Medicine, 21(7), e1004419.