Diabetes Prevention Programs Provided by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Are More Effective: Research Review in Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics

February 24, 2017

CHICAGO – The March issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides more evidence that registered dietitian nutritionists are an effective solution to the expensive health care cost of preventing diabetes.

A review of dozens of research studies shows diabetes prevention programs that include nutrition education provided by registered dietitian nutritionists help people reduce their risk of diabetes and are more effective than programs delivered by non-dietitians, according to the review, titled "The Effectiveness and Cost of Lifestyle Interventions Including Nutrition Education for Diabetes Prevention: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis."

The review analyzes 69 studies that focused on diabetes prevention for high-risk adults through lifestyle interventions. The findings have been published online in advance of the Journal's March 1 publication date.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.1 million people, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes. Of that number, 8.1 million people are undiagnosed. The direct and indirect health care costs associated with diabetes total $245 billion per year, according to the CDC.

A bill now before Congress, the Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act, would allow Medicare coverage of medical nutrition therapy provided by registered dietitian nutritionists for patients with prediabetes or with risk factors for diabetes. MNT is a cost-effective, evidence-based intervention that prevents or delays the progression from prediabetes to diabetes.

"This systematic review and meta-analysis indicated that diabetes prevention programs including nutrition education were associated with a reduced risk of diabetes," assessed by standard measures such as weight, body mass index and glucose measurements including FBG, 2-h BG and HbA1c.

"Dietitian-delivered intervention programs demonstrated greater effectiveness than those delivered by non-dietitian delivery agents," according to the review, conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "These findings provide support for the role of dietitians in diabetes prevention programs."

The authors of the review noted that their analysis included only English-language studies and that differences among countries in training "could explain the greater effectiveness (i.e. greater weight loss) of RDN-led interventions in U.S. studies." The authors say RDNs' training could allow them "to more effectively communicate nutrition information, facilitate skill development, and develop strategies for implementation with their patients."

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' website, eatright.org, offers a wealth of consumer-friendly information on diabetes prevention and treatment. If you are interested in consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist for help in managing or preventing diabetes, use the Academy's online Find an Expert referral service to locate a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.


All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use "registered dietitian nutritionist" (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.