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A research, carried out to examine how combination of different lifestyle factors relate to the incidence of diabetes has found that lifestyle habits play a greater role in influencing a person’s risk for developing diabetes than genetic factors.

Lifestyle Habits Play a Greater Role in Influencing a Person’s Risk for Developing Diabetes than Genetic Factors

Research found that the risk of developing diabetes is significantly reduced in people following a healthy lifestyle even if they had a positive family history for diabetes or were overweight.


Diabetes is a chronic illness associated with high morbidity and mortality. In 2010, about 25.6 million people were found to be affected with diabetes in the U.S. alone. Although treatment is available to manage diabetes, it is far more costly than making simple changes in the lifestyle of a person.

Researchers have found that following a healthy lifestyle by reducing weight, exercising, giving up on smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can reduce one’s chances of developing diabetes. And what is very important is the fact that all these factors work independently of each other. This means that you can try to adopt these healthy habits one by one. It is not necessary that all these steps should be undertaken simultaneously to cut the risk of developing diabetes. Even if you have a family history of diabetes, you can reduce your chances of developing the disease by following these healthy habits.

However, the single most important step in preventing diabetes is maintaining a healthy weight. All the other factors are secondary to this factor. An ideal body mass index (BMI) is around 25 for people of American origin. It may be different for people of Asian or other ethnicities.

Women are 84% less likely and Men are 72% less likely to Develop Diabetes if They Follow a Healthy Lifestyle

The study, conducted by Jared P. Reis, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues, was based on a survey of more than 200,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 60 years, wherein the participants were asked to fill up a questionnaire about their lifestyle, diet and health status. None of the participants had diabetes at the time of survey. Another survey was repeated after ten years wherein the participants were asked whether they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

In the first survey, the participants were asked questions under five categories: BMI, diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. It was found that healthy lifestyle factors like exercising for at least 20 minutes a day, three times per week and abstaining from smoking or quitting it for a minimum of ten years, reduced the risk of developing diabetes. It was found that people who ate a healthy diet had less chance of developing diabetes even if their other lifestyle factors were not that healthy, as compared to people who made poor lifestyle choices and ate a diet which was rich in saturated fats and low on fibers.

There were 84% less chances of a woman to develop diabetes if she ate a healthy diet, exercised, drank moderately and didn't smoke as compared to a woman who was overweight and made poor lifestyle choices. Similarly men with good lifestyle habits were 72 times less likely to develop diabetes as compared to men who followed an unhealthy lifestyle.

  • “Many lifestyle factors linked to diabetes risk”, by Genevra Pittman, Reuters, published on Sept 5, 2011, accessed on September 12, 2011
  • Lifestyle Factors and Risk for New-Onset Diabetes, Jared P. Reis, et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, published on September 5, 2011, accessed on September 12, 2011
  • Photo courtesy of artysmokes on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/artysmokes/4808566931/