Lifestyle key to reducing disease burden

Researchers from King’s College London have highlighted that regular and early one-to-one educational sessions on healthy diet and lifestyle could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in young South Asians.

south asia CVD riskUnlike previous studies which have focussed on high-risk older people, researchers from King’s College London and the Diabetes Association of Sri Lanka looked at people aged between five and 40. The results, published in BMC Medicine, suggest regular and realistic interventions with high-risk younger people may be more successful and cost-effective than less intensive and irregular sessions.

Asia is a major site of type 2 diabetes, accounting for 60% of people with the disease worldwide. South Asians are predisposed to develop the disease early on, with a third of future cases predicted to occur in those aged 45 years and under.

Participants in the study from Colombo, Sri Lanka included those who were identified as being at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD, but not yet diagnosed. The study included 3,539 people between the ages of five and 40 who were randomised into two groups. 

Both groups received an identical lifestyle education programme, aimed at reducing weight, improving diet, reducing psychological stress and increasing physical activity. Group one received one-to-one advice, assessment and education sessions every three months for an average of three years. Group two received these sessions only once a year for an average of three years. For participants younger than 16 the advice and guidance in both groups was also given to the child’s parents. The groups were monitored throughout the period for several risk factors that lead to cardio-metabolic disease in later life, new type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and renal disease.

After three years, the researchers found overall there was a significant 11% reduction in the risk factors in group one, where participants received regular one-to-one educational sessions, compared to the more sporadic annual sessions for group two. In particular, the study showed:

  • New occurrences of hypertension were significantly reduced with those in group one (115 participants) versus the group two (152 participants)
  • Further reductions in the occurrence of type one diabetes between the two groups (58 in the group one versus 72 in the group two), which were particularly pronounced in participants under 18.

Participants in group one also improved their physical activity and their behaviour towards increasing activity during the study to a greater extent than those in group two.

Lead author Dr Janaka Karalliedde, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King's College London and Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said:

This study highlights that even small changes in lifestyle could lead to changes in health. We suggest that early and regular interventions can have a significant impact in delaying or preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular disease.

The King’s Health Partners Diabetes, Endocrinology, Nutrition, Obesity, Vision and Related Services (DENOVARS) Clinical Academic Group comprises the largest centre for metabolic disease in Europe.

Read more on the King’s College London website.

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