Drinking less alcohol, eating more vegetables and exercising can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, researchers said recently in a study showing that lifestyle changes can make a big difference.

Diet and exercise reduced the incidence of diabetes by about 43 per cent over 20 years among 577 high-risk Chinese adults, the researchers reported in the journal Lancet.

At the end of the 20 years, 80 per cent of those who changed what they ate and exercised more had diabetes, compared with 93 per cent who made no changes, said Guangwei Li of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing and Ping Zhang at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings came as part of a series of studies addressing new research about diabetes, which affects 246 million adults worldwide, and accounts for six per cent of all global deaths.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 per cent of all diabetes cases and is closely linked to obesity and physical inactivity. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease often diagnosed at an early age.