A grant of almost £1 million has been awarded to the University of Bristol to carry out the trial, which will also examine the role played by exercise, making it the largest diet and exercise trial in the world for people with this condition.
It will run at the same time as another study backed by £2.7 million (€4m) from the government-funded Food Standards Agency(FSA), to research the impact of different foods on the chances of developing a collection of risk factors linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The move shows the increasing government concern over the large and continuing rise in the number of British people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, previously known as 'adult-onset diabetes', commonly starts in adulthood, after the age of 30.
In the last 30 years the number of people with type 2 diabetes has trebled and a further trebling in the number of patients is expected in the next ten years. This huge rise is closely linked to the recent increase in obesity within the population and threatens to be a major health problem in the future, if people cannot be persuaded to change their lifestyles.
Public health experts and nutritionists have attacked the UK government for failing to do enough to influence healthier food choices among British consumers. But sustained media attention of the obesity problem looks set to have some effect on both government action and consumer purchasing habits.
As for supplements, little evidence supports either the safety or efficacy of most supplements in helping to improve diabetes-related conditions despite strong public interest in natural therapies, the head of a US government-funded research organisation told NutraIngredients.com recently.
But there are some foods and nutrients, such as dark chocolate and magnesium, that warrant further investigation, Dr Michael Quon, chief of the diabetes unit of the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) said.
These and other foods could profit from a rapidly growing European dieting market, forecast to be worth over €100 billion in 2007.
The new three-year trial is hoping to recruit 750 people who have been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Individuals will be allocated to one of three groups. Those in the first group will receive regular help and advice on improving their diet, the second group will receive the same dietary advice, but in addition they will receive help to increase their daily levels of exercise. The control group will receive the usual care.