Type 2 diabetes - how to reduce your risk

Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing chronic diseases and is becoming increasingly prevalent among adolescents and children. Nearly a quarter of a million New Zealanders have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and some people are living with the disease but don’t yet know it.

Our nutrition fact sheets, created by accredited dietitians, provide the latest nutrition and lifestyle information to help you understand which foods are the best to eat. Click here to see the diabetes type 2 nutrition fact sheet.

Lifestyle tips

So what can you do to reduce your risk of developing diabetes? Here are five lifestyle tips.

Lose weight

Carrying extra weight, especially around your middle, is a key risk factor for diabetes. Aim to achieve a healthy weight - even losing a few kilos can significantly reduce your risk.

Focus on wholefoods

Evidence is accumulating that the best way to prevent, treat and even reverse diabetes is with a plant-based diet.

Basing most of what you eat on a variety of wholefoods, including wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, legumesnuts and seeds will help to lower your risk of diabetes.

Try replacing some meat meals with plant proteins such as legumes as these are high in fibre and help to manage blood sugars.  At the same time, it’s important to limit highly processed high fat and high sugar foods.

Choose low GI carbs

Low GI (glycemic index) carbs help manage blood glucose and keep you feeling fuller for longer, which means you snack less, have fewer cravings throughout the day and can concentrate better. Low GI carbohydrates tend to be wholegrains and include brown grainy breads, brown long-grain rice, traditional rolled oats, wholemeal pastas, quinoa, buckwheat and barley. For more information on low GI foods, visit Sydney University’s Low GI website.

Choose healthy fats every day

Nourishing plant fats from wholefoods, such as extra virgin olive oil, unsalted nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters and avocado will help slow the release of glucose into your bloodstream, meaning better blood-sugar control. They will also help to reduce inflammation in your body, which has been linked to a range of chronic diseases, including diabetes.

What about low carb, high fat (LCHF) diets? Learn about the pros and cons here

Get active

It's important to get your blood glucose levels checked by your doctor at least every year or two, especially if you’re overweight or have a family history of diabetes. If you do have diabetes in your family, remember that while it does increase your risk, it doesn’t mean you'll develop the disease. Take control to reduce your risk.

For more information visit Diabetes New Zealand.

About diabetes

There are three types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes

This is an auto-immune condition when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This means that people with type 1 diabetes can’t make their own insulin and need to use insulin injections or an insulin pump several times each day.

How is it caused?

It is not yet known what causes type 1 diabetes and no cure has yet been found.

Type 2 diabetes

This is a lifestyle-related condition and is a chronic disease. It’s most commonly found in adults over 45, although we are now seeing children as young as five being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes due to the increase in childhood obesity.

How is it caused?

Type 2 diabetes is mainly caused by extra body weight and poor eating and lifestyle habits.

Gestational diabetes

This is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It normally goes away after the baby is born, although it does increase the risk of the mother developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Gestational diabetes can generally be managed by following a healthy lifestyle but for some women, insulin injections may be required.


  1. National Diabetes Services Scheme. Data Snapshots. [Internet] 2015 [updated 2015 Dec; cited 2016 April 22]; available from: https://www.ndss.com.au/data-snapshots.

  2. New Zealand Ministry of Health. Diabetes. [Internet] 2013 [updated 2013 Dec; cited 2016 April 22]; available from: http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/diabetes?mega=Your%20health&title=Diabetes.

  3. Diabetes Australia. Diabetes in Australia. [Internet] 2016 [updated 2016 April; cited 2016 April 22]; available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-in-australia.

  4. Pinhas-Hamel O, Seitler P. The global spread of type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents. J Pediatrics 2005;146:693-700.

  5. Barclay A, Gilbertson H, Marsh K, Smart C. Dietary management in diabetes. Aust Family Physician 2010;39:8:579-583.

  6. Ley SH, Hamdy O, Mohan V, Hu FB. Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: dietary components and nutritional strategies. Lancet 2014;383:1999-2007.

  7. ​​Video from a seminar for health professionals by Dr Kate Marsh AdvAPD: “Defeating Diabetes: Preventing, Treating and Reversing Type 2 Diabetes with Plant-based Meals.” Held at Sydney Adventist Hospotal, April 2016.

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