Nine out of 10 cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented if people exercised more, ate better, stopped smoking and adopted other healthy behaviors, according to a report last week in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study findings suggest behavior is the main culprit in type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, and that 91% of the diabetes cases that appeared among 85,000 female nurses "could be attributed to habits and forms of behavior."
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly use the blood sugar-controlling hormone insulin. Obesity is known to be a major contributor to the condition.
The researchers compared data on the 3,300 nurses who developed diabetes over a 16-year period with data on those who did not. The most important risk factor, they found, was being overweight. The heavier a nurse was, the greater the risk. Even having a weight at the high end of the normal range nearly tripled the risk.
On the other hand, physical activity showed a strong protective effect. Women who exercised for 7 or more hours per week were half as likely to develop diabetes than women who exercised for less than half an hour weekly.
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