The number of people with pre-diabetes who go on to develop the full disease has halved over the past two decades, a major study has found.
The dramatic decline comes after a drive to encourage patients to eat a healthier diet and take more exercise.
It also occurred despite increasing numbers having pre-diabetes – raised blood sugars which have not reached diabetic levels.
The number of people with pre-diabetes who go on to develop the full disease has halved over the past two decades, a major study has found [File photo]
Researchers found the percentage who went on to suffer type 2 diabetes dropped from 8 per cent to 4 per cent between 2000 and 2014.
It is estimated around 5 million people in the UK have pre-diabetes, known as non-diabetic hyperglycaemia. They are usually asymptomatic but will often be clinically obese.
The high levels are linked to Britain having one of the highest obesity rates in western Europe, with two in three adults overweight or obese.
Researchers at The University of Manchester suggest the fall in those developing the full disease is the result of interventions like the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.
This identifies those at high risk and refers them on to a behaviour change programme encouraging them to eat more healthily and exercise more.
Some patients are also prescribed the drug Metformin, a common treatment for type 2 diabetes.
The academics studied data on 148,363 people in the UK with pre- diabetes to see how quickly they developed type 2 diabetes.
From 2000 to 2015, 1.6 per cent had developed the illness after a month, 4.2 per cent after six months and 20.4 per cent after four years.
Diagnosis of pre-diabetes became more common over time, rising from 0.07 per cent of the population in 2000 to 1.85 per cent in 2015, said the study in BMJ Open journal.
The high levels are linked to Britain having one of the highest obesity rates in western Europe, with two in three adults overweight or obese [File photo]
But fewer converted to type 2 diabetes, with the annual rate falling from 8 per cent in 2000 to 4 per cent in 2014.
Dr Rathi Ravindrarajah, of the university, said: ‘We are not certain why but we suspect it’s good preventative work and changing definitions of non-diabetic hyperglycaemia. This sample is large enough to give a good representation of what is going on.’
There are 3.4million patients with type 2 diabetes in England and around 200,000 new diagnoses every year.
Last week the NHS said thousands of them will be offered a three-month 800-calorie soup-and-shake daily diet in a bid to reverse their condition.