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According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes. It’s the main cause of kidney failure, limb amputations and new-onset blindness in adults nationwide. It’s also a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Diabetes costs the nation an estimated $174 billion per year, including $116 billion in direct medical costs and $58 billion in indirect costs like disability and work loss.

In an effort to help curtail healthcare costs, the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) clinical trial compared approaches to prevent diabetes in adults at high risk for the disease. The study enrolled overweight or obese adults with borderline diabetes. The participants were assigned to 1 of 3 groups. One received a lifestyle intervention aimed at a 7% weight loss and 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity. Another group received the oral diabetes drug metformin. The last received placebo pills.

Results of the study showed that over a 10 year time span, the combined costs of the interventions and medical care outside the study were lowest for metformin ($27,915) and higher for lifestyle ($29,164) than for placebo ($28,236). However, quality of life—measured by mobility, level of pain, emotional outlook and other indicators—was best for the lifestyle group throughout the study.

To read more of this study, go to NIH Research Matters at http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/april2012/04022012diabetes.htm