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Defeating Diabetes: Using lifestyle medicine to prevent diabetes

BY BRYCE WILLIAMS --- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) diabetes prevalence has more than doubled over the past few decades and diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations and adult-onset blindness among Americans. The CDC also estimates that 1 in 3 Americans are at risk for developing diabetes and without changes in diet and lifestyle, 15 percent to 30 percent of those at risk will develop the disease within five years.

Fortunately, diabetes is often preventable and a rigorously evaluated lifestyle medicine solution – the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) – demonstrates remarkable results in helping individuals avoid this debilitating and costly chronic disease. In an effort to provide a simple, effective and convenient solution, Blue Shield of California recently announced that it has teamed up with Solera Health to provide our commercial health plan members access to Solera’s network of DPP providers at no extra cost.

The program includes lifestyle coaching and weekly courses on nutrition, exercise and stress management to achieve and maintain modest weight loss and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Some courses meet in person at community locations, and others are done entirely online.

As many of us have experienced, it’s hard to lose weight and even harder to keep it off, but the DPP is one of the very few clinically validated programs proven to help individuals make and sustain diet and lifestyle changes. Over 100 scientific papers have been published supporting the DPP approach. One such study published in The Lancet medical journal found that DPP participants experienced a 34 percent reduction in diabetes incidence when compared to a control group.  Even more impressive, the diabetes incidence reduction was almost twice that of traditional medical therapy (preventive metformin medication).

Metformin is a well-researched, generally safe and effective medication typically utilized as a first line treatment option for type 2 diabetes and has demonstrated modest benefit in preventing diabetes. However, as DPP research shows, diet and lifestyle can often be the most clinically effective, cost effective, least risky, least invasive clinical option for a majority of motivated individuals. Offering a comprehensive suite of both traditional medical therapy and proven lifestyle medicine interventions is central to Blue Shield’s mission.

Blue Shield members interested in enrolling in the DPP can learn more and take a brief quiz to see if they qualify by visiting

Bryce Williams is vice president of wellbeing at Blue Shield of California.