Diet and exercise in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2020 Oct;16(10):545-555. doi: 10.1038/s41574-020-0381-5. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Evidence from observational studies and randomized trials suggests that prediabetes and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) can develop in genetically susceptible individuals in parallel with weight (that is, fat) gain. Accordingly, studies show that weight loss can produce remission of T2DM in a dose-dependent manner. A weight loss of ~15 kg, achieved by calorie restriction as part of an intensive management programme, can lead to remission of T2DM in ~80% of patients with obesity and T2DM. However, long-term weight loss maintenance is challenging. Obesity and T2DM are associated with diminished glucose uptake in the brain that impairs the satiating effect of dietary carbohydrate; therefore, carbohydrate restriction might help maintain weight loss and maximize metabolic benefits. Likewise, increases in physical activity and fitness are an important contributor to T2DM remission when combined with calorie restriction and weight loss. Preliminary studies suggest that a precision dietary management approach that uses pretreatment glycaemic status to stratify patients can help optimize dietary recommendations with respect to carbohydrate, fat and dietary fibre. This approach might lead to improved weight loss maintenance and glycaemic control. Future research should focus on better understanding the individual response to dietary treatment and translating these findings into clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caloric Restriction
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Diet Therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Prediabetic State / complications
  • Prediabetic State / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss