Long-term effects of lifestyle intervention or metformin on diabetes development and microvascular complications over 15-year follow-up: the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015 Nov;3(11):866-75. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00291-0. Epub 2015 Sep 13.


Background: Effective prevention is needed to combat the worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes. We investigated the long-term extent of beneficial effects of lifestyle intervention and metformin on diabetes prevention, originally shown during the 3-year Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), and assessed whether these interventions reduced diabetes-associated microvascular complications.

Methods: The DPP (1996-2001) was a randomised trial comparing an intensive lifestyle intervention or masked metformin with placebo in a cohort selected to be at very high risk of developing diabetes. All participants were offered lifestyle training at the end of the DPP. 2776 (88%) of the surviving DPP cohort were followed up in the DPP Outcomes Study (DPPOS, Sept 1, 2002, to Jan 2, 2014) and analysed by intention to treat on the basis of their original DPP assignment. During DPPOS, the original lifestyle intervention group was offered lifestyle reinforcement semi-annually and the metformin group received unmasked metformin. The primary outcomes were the development of diabetes and the prevalence of microvascular disease. For the assessment of microvascular disease, we used an aggregate microvascular outcome, composed of nephropathy, retinopathy, and neuropathy.

Findings: During a mean follow-up of 15 years, diabetes incidence was reduced by 27% in the lifestyle intervention group (hazard ratio 0·73, 95% CI 0·65-0·83; p<0·0001) and by 18% in the metformin group (0·82, 0·72-0·93; p=0·001), compared with the placebo group, with declining between-group differences over time. At year 15, the cumulative incidences of diabetes were 55% in the lifestyle group, 56% in the metformin group, and 62% in the placebo group. The prevalences at the end of the study of the aggregate microvascular outcome were not significantly different between the treatment groups in the total cohort (placebo 12·4%, 95% CI 11·1-13·8; metformin 13·0%, 11·7-14·5; lifestyle intervention 11·3%, 10·1-12·7). However, in women (n=1887) the lifestyle intervention was associated with a lower prevalence (8·7%, 95% CI 7·4-10·2) than in the placebo (11·0%, 9·6-12·6) and metformin (11·2%, 9·7-12·9) groups, with reductions in the lifestyle intervention group of 21% (p=0·03) compared with placebo and 22% (p=0·02) compared with metformin. Compared with participants who developed diabetes, those who did not develop diabetes had a 28% lower prevalence of microvascular complications (relative risk 0·72, 95% CI 0·63-0·83; p<0·0001).

Interpretation: Lifestyle intervention or metformin significantly reduced diabetes development over 15 years. There were no overall differences in the aggregate microvascular outcome between treatment groups; however, those who did not develop diabetes had a lower prevalence of microvascular complications than those who did develop diabetes. This result supports the importance of diabetes prevention.

Funding: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Microvessels / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Diseases / complications*
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin