Why Is Preventing Diabetes Mellitus Important?
Before the onset of diabetes mellitus, there are no signs or symptoms. Yet for those with impaired sugar levels, 70% of them might eventually develop diabetes, of which there is still no cure. There are currently more and more people in Singapore who are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes mellitus, and managing the condition requires a lifelong commitment to lifestyle changes.

The complications of poorly controlled diabetes include damage to your eyes, kidneys and nervous system and increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Therefore, it is important to be aware if you are at risk and to start acting now.

Risk Factors That Increase Your Risk For Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus

Non-modifiable Risk Factors

Modifiable Risk Factors

Family history

Being overweight/obese


High blood pressure



Sedentary lifestyle


The prevention of diabetes can be achieved by making lifestyle changes to reduce the modifiable risk factors above. One of the major risk factor for diabetes is being overweight and obese, a condition of excessive body fat accumulation that is contributed by a high fat and sugar diet, and sedentary lifestyles. Other changes include reducing blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure to prevent the onset of diabetes.

Aim for regular exercise to reduce weight to an ideal body weight at body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 kg/m2 and 23 kg/m2. Another way is to aim for your waist circumference to be <90cm for males and <80cm for females. It is also advised to stop smoking especially if you are overweight or obese.

Basic Dietary Guidelines to Prevent Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus

Diets high in cholesterol, and total fats particularly saturated fats and trans fat lead to weight gain and tend to increase your total blood cholesterol that will thicken and block the walls of your blood vessels.
• Avoid using butter/vegetable shortening/palm oil/coconut milk in cooking
• Choose soup noodles when eating out instead of fried/dry noodles
• Avoid pastries/cakes/cookies/chocolates that can contain high amounts of saturated and trans fat
• Limit deep fried foods
• Use less oil for stir frying
• Replace full cream milk with low fat or skim milk
• Skim off the top layer of oil/fat over soup and gravy
• Select lean meat or poultry without skin
• Limit organ meats (e.g. liver, kidney and brain) and shellfish (e.g. prawn, crab and clam)
• Select healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling and grilling, instead of deep frying
• Go for healthier cooking oils with polyunsaturated fat (e.g. corn, soybean) or monounsaturated fat (e.g. olive, canola)

Reduce Sodium Intake
Do not exceed more than 2g of sodium in your diet daily as this increases the total blood volume and worsen blood pressure.
• Choose soup noodles instead of dry noodles, and do not drink the soup
• Taste your food first before adding salt or sauces. If necessary, do so sparingly
• Avoid salted, highly processed and preserved food such as ikan bilis, salted eggs, luncheon meat, sausages and ham
• Ask for less gravy or sauce when eating out
• Spice up your dishes with fresh ingredients like garlic, onion, ginger, vinegar, lemon juice, mint leave, black pepper and coriander instead of sodium-containing seasonings such as oyster sauce, soy sauce, stock cubes

Moderate Refined Sugar Intake
Sugar and sugary products are high in calories and can be high in fat as well. Hence, minimal amount should be consumed.
• Cut down snacks that are high in sugar content such as jellies, ice cream, chocolates and cake
• Ask for less sugar and syrup
• Choose reduced sugar/unsweetened beverages over regular soft drinks and sweetened beverages

Reduce Portion Sizes Of Meals
Eating smaller portions reduces total calorie intake throughout the day.
• Take smaller portions during meal time i.e. do not upsize your meal
• Share your foods with friends or family
• Eat slowly, chew food well and enjoy every bite

Increase Fibre Intake
Fibre-rich food increases satiety to reduce total calorie intake for weight loss and also aids in lowering cholesterol levels.
• Choose wholegrains when possible (e.g. brown rice, brown rice beehoon, wholemeal bread, chappati, thosai, wholegrain crackers)
• Try to eat the edible skin of fruits whenever possible
• Eat fresh fruits instead of drinking fruit juice that has fibre removed
• Include beans and lentils into meals

Moderate Alcohol Intake
Keep to less than 2 standard drinks for men/day and less than 1 standard drinks for women/day
• Examples of 1 standard drink = 35ml spirits, 175ml wine, 330ml beer

For more tips and support for caregivers, you can visit AIC's Introduction to Caregiving.