First-ever European guidelines issued on preventing diabetes

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Europe's first continent-wide guidelines on how to prevent type 2 diabetes were launched April 9 at the 6th World Congress on Prevention of Diabetes and its Complications in Dresden, Germany. The guidelines are the result of a six-year collaboration of multidisciplinary teams from multiple countries.

The project, Development and Implementation of a European Guideline and Training Standards for Diabetes Prevention, or IMAGE, has resulted in detailed evidence-based guidelines that include:

  • How to define “at-risk” and identify those people in the population who are at risk for type 2 diabetes;
  • How to prevent type 2 diabetes in these people (through achieving changes in diet and physical activity as well as possible pharmaceutical-based strategies); and
  • How to support the changes in diet and physical activity needed to prevent type 2 diabetes, using both interventions with individuals or groups and through societal level /environmental changes.

The project originated in part because research has shown that by 2030, one in 10 Europeans between the ages of 20 to 79 will have type 2 diabetes. In the U.K. alone, comorbities associated with diabetes account for 18 percent of its healthcare expenditures, approximately $9 billion annually.

In addition, the IMAGE team noted that diabetes is no longer an older person's disease, that teenagers and young children also are affected.

Recent evidence shows that even a 5 percent weight loss and 150 minutes of moderate activity each week can cut someone's risk of developing diabetes, according to IMAGE researchers. They also noted that the rate of progression to type 2 diabetes was 0 percent in people who successfully made four out of five lifestyle changes.

The IMAGE consortium, which is headed by the Dresden University of Technology, consists of diverse specialists, such as public health and policy experts, health researchers, behavioral scientists, epidemiologists and general practitioners from 20 European countries.

According to the new guidelines, “Prevention using lifestyle modifications in high-risk individuals is cost-effective and should be embedded in evaluated models of care. Effective prevention plans are predicted upon sustained government initiatives comprising advocacy, community support, fiscal and legislative changes, private sector engagement and continuous media communication.”

Colin Greaves, MD, from the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry at the Universities of Exeter & Plymouth in the U.K., said: “If politicians and healthcare providers were to use this guidance to develop national strategies for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, this would be a quantum leap forward for healthcare policy across the region.”