PROVO, UT — A poor diet and lack of physical activity can lead to adult-onset diabetes, but diabetics can reverse their illness through lifestyle changes, according to a Brigham Young University (BYU) study.

Steve Aldana, a BYU professor of health and human performance, conducted the study to determine the effect of fitness and nutrition on reversing diabetes. He designed a corporate wellness program in which employees who were at risk of developing diabetes were invited to participate in the year-long health program. The program consisted of 16 weeks of healthy lifestyle classes and 30 minutes of daily exercise. BYU screened the participants' blood insulin levels and glucose intolerance at the start of the program, at the six-month mark and a year after the program began. The researchers found improvements after six months and one year. By the end, more than half of the participants were no longer diabetic or at risk.

“Ideally, it's best to prevent diabetes from ever happening in the first place, but in many cases where it appeared to be too late, we were able to stop or reverse it,” Aldana said.

Bill Haskell, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in Stanford, CA, said he and other researchers have reached similar conclusions.

“Physical activity combined with weight loss can result in a reversal of diagnoses,” he said. “Fasting blood sugars have dropped below what was used to classify someone as diabetic, and they no longer needed to use medications.”