From cardio to healthy eating, how can we reduce our risk? By Imy Brighty-Potts.

Type 2 diabetes is extremely common, so much so that by 2030, Diabetes UK predicts that five-and-a-half million people in the UK will have the condition. However, there are some really simple ways to reduce your risk of developing type 2 - and improve your overall health at the same time.

"Diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels run out of control due to a lack of the hormone insulin, leading to dangerous health complications such as blindness and kidney damage. More than nine in 10 cases are type 2 diabetes, which [unlike type 1] is preventable because it's linked to our diet and lifestyle," says dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, who also works with the Tea Advisory Panel (, and has conducted extensive research into diabetes.

So, what steps can we take to avoid joining those statistics?


1. Keep an eye on your weight

While weight isn't everything when it comes to health, being overweight can impact your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

"With more than two-thirds of adults in the UK carrying too much weight, it's a shocking statistic that you are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are obese, compared with having a body mass index under 22," says Ruxton.

"Scientists think this is because the body cells of overweight people become increasingly resistant to insulin, forcing the body to keep producing more and more. This overuse exhausts the pancreas - the organ in the body where insulin is made - and the production of insulin then dwindles."


2. Get into fitness

"A report in the World Journal of Diabetes found that, while vigorous exercise was best for cutting risk, even walking for at least 30 min per day lowered the risk by around half," notes Ruxton.

"What we put into our bodies, how we recharge, and how we move are the three key pillars of maintaining our health. I recommend a combination of cardiovascular and strength training for optimal fitness."


3. Drink tea to help manage blood sugar levels

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels could be vital for helping keep type 2 diabetes at bay.

Ruxton says a new report by the Tea Advisory Panel found simple diet strategies, such as drinking black or green tea daily, can help boost our intake of polyphenols - "natural bioactive plant compounds, which help to stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation".

A study in British Medical Journal found that having more than three cups of tea daily is associated with lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.


4. Take breaks between meals

Ruxton suggests a longer fast between meals is better for blood sugar control.

"A plan where you stick to water, regular tea or herbal tea between 7pm and 11am gives your pancreas a break and helps to stimulate fat burning. If you can't face that, try to keep your carbs for mealtimes only and stick to low-sugar, high-protein snacks, such as nuts, seeds, cheese, yoghurt, or dark chocolate," she says.


5. Try wholegrains

A study published in Diabetologia found that eating more fibre is associated with a reduction in type 2 diabetes risk of around a fifth. "Fibre is found in wholegrain bread, pasta, and rice as well as oats, beans, vegetables, and fruit," says GP, Dr Gill Jenkins.

"Scientists believe that wholegrain cereal types are better for blood sugar control and reducing the risk of diabetes, but all sources are good for general health. We should aim for 30g a day, but intakes in the UK are less than half of this."