Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of disability and fatal complications, including heart attacks and strokes. According to a new study, individuals with prediabetes can significantly lower their risks of death and complications by delaying the onset of diabetes by four years.

Based on the findings of the latest study, the research team led by Dr. Guangwei Li of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Da Qing City, China, suggests that people who have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) should consider making lifestyle interventions such as diet and exercise to effectively delay the onset of diabetes.

"In this study, we observed that maintaining several years of non-diabetes status after IGT diagnosis was associated with a significant reduction in long-term risk of death and vascular complications, and for most of these outcomes, maintaining at least 4 years of non-diabetes status may be needed to achieve a significant risk reduction," the researchers wrote in the study published in the journal Plos Medicine.

The researchers looked at 540 prediabetic individuals who were part of the original Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Study, a six-year trial conducted in Da Qing City in China. During the trial, the participants were divided into four groups: one focused on maintaining a healthy diet, another on increasing physical activity, a third that combined both approaches, and a control group.

Over a follow-up period exceeding 30 years, researchers observed that those who managed to delay the onset of diabetes for at least four years after their initial prediabetes diagnosis had a notably reduced risk of death or experiencing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes.

Conversely, this protective effect was not observed in individuals who progressed to full diabetes within less than four years, according to the researchers.

"This study suggests that a longer duration of non-diabetes status in those with IGT has beneficial health outcomes and reduces mortality. The implementation of effective interventions targeting those with IGT should be considered as part of preventative management for diabetes and diabetes-related vascular complications," the researchers concluded.

However, researchers caution that the study has limitations, including a small participant pool and its focus exclusively on individuals of Chinese ethnicity.