To assess the effect of lifestyle intervention over 2 years on changes in weight, coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors, and incidence of diabetes in overweight individuals with a parental history of diabetes.


Participants (n = 154), who were 30–100% over ideal body weight, had one or both parents with diabetes, and were currently nondiabetic, were randomly assigned to 2-year treatments focused on diet (decreasing calories and fat intake), exercise (goal of 1,500 kcal/week of moderate activity), or the combination of diet plus exercise or to a no-treatment control group. Subjects were reassessed at 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.


At 6 months, the groups differed significantly on measures of eating, exercise, and fitness; weight losses in the diet and diet-plus-exercise groups were significantly > in the exercise and control conditions. Weight losses were associated with positive changes in CHD risk factors. After 6 months, there was gradual deterioration of behavioral and physiological changes, so that at 2 years, almost no between-group differences were maintained. Differences between groups in risk of developing diabetes were of borderline significance (P = 0.08). Strongest predictors were impaired glucose tolerance at baseline, which was positively related to risk of developing diabetes, and weight loss from baseline to 2 years, which was negatively related; in all treatment groups, a modest weight loss of 4.5 kg reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by ∼ 30% compared with no weight loss.


Although initially successful, the interventions studied here were not effective in producing long-term changes in behavior, weight, or physiological parameters. However, weight loss from 0 to 2 years reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Since modest weight loss significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, further research is needed to determine how best to increase the percentage of subjects achieving at least a modest weight loss.

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