The prevalence rate of diabetes was determined for 5398 living college alumnae (2622 former college athletes and 2776 nonathletes) from data on medical history, athletic training, and diet. For all ages, the prevalence rate among the former athletes was 0.57% (15/2622) and among the nonathletes was 1.3% (37/2776). The former college athletes and the nonathletes had similar percentages in family history of diabetes, i.e., 12.0 and 13.5%, respectively.
For cases occurring at age ≥20 yr (thus assessing the effects of college athletic training), 0.5% (13/2622) of the former college athletes had diabetes compared to 1.2% (32/2776) of the nonathletes; the relative risk is 2.24 [95% confidence limits (CL), 1.19 and 4.74, respectively]. Omitting cases of gestational diabetes, the relative risk of diabetes in nonathletes versus athletes is 3.41 (95% CL, 1.33 and 8.70). The percentages of former athletes and nonathletes that are insulin-using, non-insulin-using, and gestational diabetics did not differ significantly. The athletes were leaner than the nonathletes at all ages up to 70 yr. Of the former college athletes, 82% had been on precollege teams, compared to 25% of the college nonathletes; 74% of the former athletes were exercising regularly, compared to 57% of the nonathletes. We conclude that long-term athletic training is associated with a lower risk of the development Of diabetes.