Lifestyle interventions for patients with and at risk for type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ann Intern Med. 2013 Oct 15;159(8):543-51. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-159-8-201310150-00007.


Background: The effect of multifaceted lifestyle interventions on clinically oriented outcomes across a spectrum of metabolic risk factors and abnormal glucose is unclear.

Purpose: To systematically review the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions on minimizing progression to diabetes in high-risk patients or progression to clinical outcomes (such as cardiovascular disease and death) in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Data sources: 5 electronic databases (1980 to June 2013), reference lists, and gray literature.

Study selection: Two reviewers independently identified randomized, controlled trials of lifestyle interventions (≥3 months' duration) that included exercise, diet, and at least 1 other component; the comparator was standard care.

Data extraction: One reviewer extracted and a second verified data. Two reviewers independently assessed methodological quality.

Data synthesis: Nine randomized, controlled trials with patients who were at risk for diabetes and 11 with patients who had diabetes were included. Seven studies reported that lifestyle interventions decreased the risk for diabetes from the end of intervention up to 10 years after it. In patients with diabetes, 2 randomized, controlled trials (which included pharmacotherapy) reported no improvement in all-cause mortality (risk ratio, 0.75 [95% CI, 0.53 to 1.06]). Composite outcomes for cardiovascular disease were too heterogeneous to pool. One trial reported improvement in microvascular outcomes at 13-year follow-up.

Limitation: Most trials focused on surrogate measures (such as weight change, blood pressure, and lipids) for which clinical relevance was unclear.

Conclusion: Comprehensive lifestyle interventions effectively decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes in high-risk patients. In patients who already have type 2 diabetes, there is no evidence of reduced all-cause mortality and insufficient evidence to suggest benefit on cardiovascular and microvascular outcomes.

Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Complications / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style*
  • Risk Factors