Skip to content

 Get active, really active, to reduce your risk for 5 diseases: breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and ischemic stroke. Instead of the 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes per week of running (which is equal to the 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes now recommended by the World Health Organization), this study found that much more exercise is needed for best health results.

This study (which was a review and analysis of 174 studies) found that there is a dose-response effect, with the most reduction in the risk of the 5 conditions by getting 3000 to 4000 MET minutes per week. This sounds like a lot, but the researchers  point out that this can be achieved by incorporating exercise into your daily routines. The researchers write: "A person can achieve 3000 MET minutes/week by incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily routine—for example, climbing stairs 10 minutes, vacuuming 15 minutes, gardening 20 minutes, running 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation 25 minutes on a daily basis would together achieve about 3000 MET minutes a week."

So start thinking creatively about how to increase exercise or activity into your daily life, especially moderate or vigorous intensity activity. For example, park your car far from the store door, or better yet, bicycle or walk to the store from home. From Medscape:

Get Moving: High Physical-Activity Level Reduces Risk of 5 Diseases

High levels of physical activity can reduce the risk for five major diseases, including type 2 diabetes, new research shows. Findings from the systematic review and meta-analysis were published online ....The data, from a total 174 studies comprising 149,184,285 total person-years of follow-up, suggest that the more total regular daily physical activity one engages in — including recreation, transportation, occupational activity, and/or daily chores — the lower the risks for breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke.

However, significant reductions in those conditions were seen only with total activity levels considerably higher than the minimum 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes per week recommended by the World Health Organization for health benefits. That 600 METs equates to about 150 minutes/week of brisk walking or 75 minutes/week of running. (A MET is defined as the ratio of the metabolic rate during that activity to the metabolic rate when resting.) Risks of the five conditions dropped significantly with an increase in MET minutes per week from 600 to 3000 to 4000, with less additive benefit seen above that level.

For reference, the authors say, "a person can achieve 3000 MET minutes/week by incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily routine — for example, climbing stairs 10 minutes, vacuuming 15 minutes, gardening 20 minutes, running 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation 25 minutes on a daily basis would together achieve about 3000 MET minutes a week." "This amount might seem a bit large, but this is about total activity across all domains of life.…For people who currently don't exercise, clinicians could encourage them to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, [such as] turning household chores into exercise. 

Another recent meta-analysis of trials involving more than one million individuals indicated that an hour of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, offsets the health risks of 8 hours of sitting. The message that physical inactivity is a killer — leading to 5.3 million premature deaths annually worldwide, which is as many as caused by smoking and twice as many as associated with obesity, has been emerging over the past few years, with warnings that "sitting is the new smoking."

This new research is the first meta-analysis to quantify the dose-response association between total physical activity across all domains and the risk of five chronic diseases. The 174 prospective cohort studies included 35 for breast cancer, 19 for colon cancer, 55 for diabetes, 43 for ischemic heart disease, and 26 for ischemic stroke. (Some included more than one end point.)....Higher levels of total physical activity were associated with lower risks of all five outcomes.

With the development of diabetes, for example, compared with no physical activity, those with 600 MET minutes per week (the minimum recommended level of activity) had a 2% lower risk. That risk reduction jumped by an additional 19% with an increase from 600 to 3600 METs/week. Gains were smaller above that, with the increase of total activity from 9000 to 12,000 MET minutes/week yielding only an additional 0.6% diabetes reduction.

Overall, compared with insufficiently active individuals (total activity < 600 MET minutes/week), the risk reduction for those in the highly active category (≥ 8000 MET minutes/week) was 14% for breast cancer; 21% for colon cancer; 28% for diabetes; 25% for ischemic heart disease; and 26% for ischemic stroke

 Credit: Medscape

 Another interesting study looking at whether being overweight is linked to premature death, heart attacks, and diabetes. This study looked at sets of twins, in which one is heavier than the other, and followed them long-term (average 12.4 years) and found that NO - being overweight or obese (as measured by Body Mass Index or BMI) is NOT associated with premature death or heart attack (myocardial infarction), but it is associated with higher rates of type 2 diabetes. These results are in contrast with what a large study recently found. From Science Daily:

Higher BMI not associated with increased risk of heart attack or early death, twin study shows

A study of 4,046 genetically identical twin pairs with different amounts of body fat shows that twin siblings with a higher Body Mass Index, as a measure of obesity, do not have an increased risk of heart attack or mortality. The study, conducted by researchers at Umeå University in Sweden, also shows that a higher BMI is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes...."The results suggest that lifestyle changes that reduce levels of obesity do not have an effect on the risk of death and heart attack, which contradicts conventional understandings of obesity-related health risks," says Peter Nordström, researcher at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation at Umeå University.

In the cohort study, Peter Nordström and research colleagues at Umeå University compared health data from 4,046 monozygotic twin pairs. All twins in the study had different levels of body fat, as measured in BMI....During a follow-up period of on average 12.4 years, differences between the twins were compared when it comes to incidents of mortality, heart attack and type 2 diabetes. The results clearly showed that twin siblings with a higher BMI did not have an increased risk of mortality or heart attack compared to their thinner counterparts. However, twins with a higher BMI did have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The results showed that: - Among twin siblings with a higher BMI (mean value 25.1), there were 203 heart attacks (5 %) and 550 deaths (13.6 %) during the follow-up period. - Among twin siblings with a lower BMI (mean value 23.9), there were 209 heart attacks (5.2 %) and 633 deaths (15.6 %) during the same period. - Among the 65 twin pairs in the study who had a BMI difference of 7 or higher, and where the larger twin siblings had a BMI of 30 or higher, there were still no noticeably increased risk of mortality or heart attack associated with a higher BMI.

The study, described in the article Risks of Myocardinal Infarction, Death, and Diabetes in Identical Twin Pairs With Different Body Mass Index, is based on the Swedish Twin Registry, the largest of its kind in the world. The median age of the twins in the study was 57.5 and participants' ages ranged from 42-92. The cohort study was conducted between 1998 and 2003, with follow-ups regarding incident of mortality, heart attack and diabetes during a 10 year period until 2013. One study limitation was that weight and length (used to calculate BMI) was self-reported.

 Studies have found that increased nut consumption has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A newly published study looked at large groups of people to see if this was due to nuts reducing systemic inflammation throughout the body - which can be measured by inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and  interleukin 6 (IL6).

The researchers found that nut consumption was inversely associated with concentrations of biomarkers CRP and IL-6 - that is, the more nuts eaten weekly, the lower the inflammatory biomarkers. They also found that substituting nuts for red meat, processed meat, eggs, refined grains, potatoes, or potato chips was associated with a healthier inflammatory biomarker profile. In the study, one serving of nuts was equivalent to 28 g (1 oz) of peanuts or other nuts. What's in nuts? Unsaturated fatty acids, high quality plant protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, bioactive compounds such as phytosterols, antioxidants, magnesium, etc. Bottom line: eat a serving of nuts at least several times a week. From Science Daily:

Frequent nut consumption associated with less inflammation

In a study of more than 5,000 people, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital have found that greater intake of nuts was associated with lower levels of biomarkers of inflammation, a finding that may help explain the health benefits of nuts. The results of the study appear July 27 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Population studies have consistently supported a protective role of nuts against cardiometabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and we know that inflammation is a key process in the development of these diseases," said corresponding author Ying Bao, MD, ScD, an epidemiologist in BWH's Channing Division of Network Medicine. "Our new work suggests that nuts may exert their beneficial effects in part by reducing systemic inflammation."

Previously Bao and her colleagues observed an association between increased nut consumption and reduced risk of major chronic diseases and even death, but few prospective cohort studies had examined the link between nut intake and inflammation. In the current study, the research team performed a cross-sectional analysis of data from the Nurses' Health Study, which includes more than 120,000 female registered nurses, and from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which includes more than 50,000 male health professionals.... looked at the levels of certain telltale proteins known as biomarkers in blood samples collected from the study participants. They measured three well-established biomarkers of inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6 (IL6) and tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2).

After adjusting for age, medical history, lifestyle and other variables, they found that participants who had consumed five or more servings of nuts per week had lower levels of CRP and IL6 than those who never or almost never ate nuts. In addition, people who substituted three servings per week of nuts in place of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains had significantly lower levels of CRP and IL6.

Peanuts and tree nuts contain a number of healthful components including magnesium, fiber, L-arginine, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids such as α-linolenic acid. Researchers have not yet determined which of these components, or if the combination of all of them, may offer protection against inflammation, but Bao and her colleagues are interested in exploring this further through clinical trials that would regulate and monitor diet.

 Another view of  type 2 diabetes - that the gut microbiome is involved, specifically two gut bacteria: Prevotella copri and Bacteroides vulgatus. View them as the bad guys. The researchers point out "... the majority of overweight and obese individuals are insulin resistant and it is well known that dietary shifts to less calorie-dense eating and increased daily intake of any kind of vegetables and less intake of food rich in animal fat tend to normalize imbalances of gut microbiota and simultaneously improve insulin sensitivity of the host." In other words, eat more vegetables and fewer calories (if you're overweight or obese) to improve the gut microbes. This is similar to yesterday's post of research that viewed type 2 diabetes as "a response to overnutrition" and potentially reversible. From Medical Express:

Gut bacteria imbalance increases diabetes risk

Currently, scientists think the major contributors to insulin resistance are excess weight and physical inactivity, yet ground-breaking new research by an EU funded European-Chinese team of investigators called MetaHit have discovered that specific imbalances in the gut bacteria can cause insulin resistance, which confers an increased risk of health disorders like type 2 diabetes.

We show that specific imbalances in the gut microbiota are essential contributors to insulin resistance, a forerunner state of widespread disorders like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases, which are in epidemic growth," says Professor Oluf Pedersen, Metabolism Center, University of Copenhagen, and senior lead author of the paper.

In the Danish study of 277 non-diabetic individuals and 75 type 2 diabetic patients, there was close collaboration between the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark with extensive international participation from a team of investigators, who performed analyses of the action of the insulin hormone. They monitored the concentrations of more than 1200 metabolites in blood and did advanced DNA-based studies of hundreds of bacteria in the human intestinal tract to explore if certain imbalances in gut microbiota are involved in the causation of common metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.

The researchers observed that people who had a decreased capacity of insulin action, and therefore were insulin resistant, had elevated blood levels of a subgroup of amino acids called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Importantly, the rise of BCAAs levels in blood was related to specific changes in the gut microbiota composition and function.

The main drivers behind the gut bacterial biosynthesis of BCAAs turned out to be the two bacteria Prevotella copri and Bacteroides vulgatus. To test mechanistically if gut bacteria were a true cause of insulin resistance, the researchers fed mice with the Prevotella copri bacteria for 3 weeks. Compared with sham fed mice the Prevotella copi fed mice developed increased blood levels of BCAAs, insulin resistance and intolerance to glucose.

"Most people with insulin resistance do not know that they have it. However, it is known that the majority of overweight and obese individuals are insulin resistant and it is well known that dietary shifts to less calorie-dense eating and increased daily intake of any kind of vegetables and less intake of food rich in animal fat tend to normalize imbalances of gut microbiota and simultaneously improve insulin sensitivity of the host," adds Pedersen. (Original study)

 This study gives hope to those with type 2 diabetes that it may be reversible - even if they've had it for up to 10 years. Researchers demonstrated that in 40% of the 30 study participants on a very low calorie diet (VLCD) of 600 to 700 calories daily for 8 weeks achieved remission of their diabetes for as long as 6 months (the length of the study). They returned to nondiabetic blood glucose levels, had improvement in acute insulin secretion, normalization of liver fat content and insulin sensitivity, and were off all diabetes medicine. The average weight loss was 31 pounds and they maintained this weight loss over the length of the study, even though most remained obese or overweight. The researchers mention that there is already evidence that diabetes reversal lasts for at least 3 years, as long as weight is not regained.

What they did: A) 3 diet shakes per day and 240 grams (1 cup or 1/2 pound) of non-starchy vegetables taking in between 600 and 700 calories per day for 8 weeks, B) volunteers then gradually returned to eating normal food over the next two weeks with very careful instruction on how much to eat, C) volunteers were seen once a month and supported with an individualized weight maintenance program over the next 6 months, D) to keep weight steady after the weight loss, they were eating around one third less than before the study.

Overall, 12 patients who had had diabetes for less than 10 years reversed their condition, and 6 months later they remained diabetes free. In fact, after 6 months a thirteenth patient had reversed their diabetes. The 30 people with diabetes in the study had it between 0.5 and 23 years. The best results were in those who had it for a shorter time. Thus, while 40% of study participants overall reversed their diabetes, 60% of those with short-duration of diabetes (under 10 years) reversed their diabetes. These are fantastic results!

The researchers say that the study results "...supports our theory of a Personal Fat Threshold. If a person gains more weight than they personally can tolerate, then diabetes is triggered, but if they then lose that amount of weight then they go back to normal. Individuals vary in how much weight they can carry without it seeming to affect their metabolism -- don't forget that 70% of severely obese people do not have diabetes." The researchers say type 2 diabetes can now be understood to be a metabolic syndrome that is potentially reversible by substantial weight loss, and that this is an important paradigm shift. They also comment that studies and population data indicate that type 2 diabetes is solely a response to overnutrition.

Excerpts from Diabetes Care:  Very Low-Calorie Diet and 6 Months of Weight Stability in Type 2 Diabetes: Pathophysiological Changes in Responders and Nonresponders.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is generally regarded as an irreversible chronic condition. Because a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) can bring about acute return to normal glucose control in some people with T2DM, this study tested the potential durability of this normalization. The underlying mechanisms were defined.

People with a T2DM duration of 0.5-23 years (n = 30) followed a VLCD for 8 weeks. All oral agents or insulins were stopped at baseline.....Weight fell (98.0 ± 2.6 to 83.8 ± 2.4 kg) and remained stable over 6 months (84.7 ± 2.5 kg). Twelve of 30 participants achieved fasting plasma glucose <7 mmol/L after return to isocaloric diet (responders), and 13 of 30 after 6 months. Responders had a shorter duration of diabetes and a higher initial fasting plasma insulin level....A robust and sustainable weight loss program achieved continuing remission of diabetes for at least 6 months in the 40% who responded to a VLCD by achieving fasting plasma glucose of <7 mmol/L. T2DM is a potentially reversible condition.

However, restoration of normal glucose control is possible after weight loss in some individuals with T2DM . Although most commonly seen after bariatric surgery, reversal of diabetes can occur after any sharp decrease in calorie intake. In short-duration T2DM, fasting plasma glucose becomes normal within days on a very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) because of a rapid decrease in liver fat and return of normal hepatic insulin sensitivity, and normal b-cell function returns over 8 weeks.

This prospective, longitudinal, single center study comprised three phases: VLCD for 8 weeks; a stepped return to isocaloric intake of normal food over 2 weeks; and a structured, individualized weight maintenance program over 6 months. Assessments were carried out before the VLCD, after return to isocaloric eating, and at the end of the 6-month follow-up. The primary outcome measure was fasting blood glucose at 6 months in the group achieving nondiabetic levels after VLCD and return to normal eating, and the primary comparison was the change between post– weight loss and 6 months in responders.

We demonstrate that in 40% of study participants who responded to a VLCD by achieving fasting plasma glucose ,7 mmol/L, remission of T2DM lasts for at least 6 months. Return to nondiabetic blood glucose levels was characterized by improvement in acute insulin secretion, and this was sustained while off all hypoglycemic agents. Hepatic insulin sensitivity improved in both responders and nonresponders....Weight loss brought about normalization of liver fat content and insulin sensitivity in both responders and nonresponders. Of note, no redistribution of fat was seen to the liver from the subcutaneous or other deposits over 6 months of weight stability, even though the participants remained obese or overweight.

The present demonstration of ongoing reversal of T2DM (in 41% of the cohort overall or 60% of individuals with short-duration diabetes) is reflected in population data that indicate that T2DM is solely a response to overnutrition. Ready access to low-cost food is uniformly accompanied by high rates of T2DM, and when food supply becomes limited for any reason, the prevalence of T2DM falls.....The present data confirm reversal of T2DM for at least 6 months in those who achieve nondiabetic plasma glucose levels after VLCD. However, the critical question for health-care delivery is whether truly long-term reversal of T2DM can be achieved in primary care.

The likelihood of VLCD responders remaining free of diabetes indefinitely must be considered. After media coverage of our earlier study, many people with T2DM reversed their own diabetes (37). For such motivated individuals who avoid weight regain, maintenance of normoglycemia for up to 3 years has been reported.... Because progression of longterm complications of diabetes relates to ambient blood glucose control, durable reversal of diabetes would be expected to be associated with longterm health. T2DM can now be understood to be a metabolic syndrome potentially reversible by substantial weight loss, and this is an important paradigm shift. 

 Of course eating meals prepared at home is healthier! The study results - that people who often consume meals prepared at home are less likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than those who consume such meals less frequently shouldn't be surprising. The researchers attributed the higher incidence of type 2 diabetes to weight gain in those eating fewer meals prepared at home, but there are other things going on also.

Restaurant and fast food meals tend to have very large portions, frequently with rich sauces, and the meal choices tend to be heavy on fat and salt. The meals can be high in calories, contain many artificial ingredients, and may be low in nutritional quality (and so also not nourishing the beneficial gut microbes that are linked to health). At home you can limit portions, control the food ingredients, and eat only healthy foods (see earlier post on this). From Science Daily:

Enjoying meals prepared at home: Short-cut to avoiding diabetes?

People who often consume meals prepared at home are less likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than those who consume such meals less frequently, according to  new epidemiological research reported by Qi Sun, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Heath, Boston, USA and colleagues as part of PLOS Medicine's special issue on Preventing Diabetes.

Internationally, there is an increasing tendency for people to eat out, and this could involve consumption of fast food, for example. Concerns have been raised that such people have a diet that is rich in energy but relatively poor in nutrients -- this could lead to weight gain which is, in turn, associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sun and colleagues employed large prospective data sets in which US health professionals -- both men and women--were followed-up for long periods, with rigorous collection of data on health indicators, including self-reported information on eating habits and occurrence of diabetes. The results were corrected for various known factors that could affect dining habits, including marital status. All in all, the study analyzed 2.1 million years of follow-up data.

The findings indicate that people who reported consuming 5-7 evening meals prepared at home during a week had a 15% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who consumed 2 such meals or fewer in a week. A smaller, but still statistically significant, reduction was apparent for those who reported consuming more midday meals prepared at home. Other analyses suggest that less weight gain could partially explain the reported reduction in occurrence of type 2 diabetes in those often eating meals prepared at home.

 A second study was just published about the benefits of eating whole grains daily - again a significantly lower risk of premature death, and again the effects were dose-related. That is, the more whole grains eaten daily, the lower the risk of early death. Like the first study, this also was a review study. This study (published in BMJ) found that whole grain consumption was associated with a reduction in the risk for death from cancer, coronary heart disease (heart attack and stroke), respiratory disease, infectious disease, and diabetes.

A slice of 100 percent whole grain bread contains about 16 grams of whole grains, and current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend 48 grams or more of whole grains daily, but this study suggests that eating even more whole grains daily is best (eating 90 grams of whole grains a day reduced the risk for mortality from all causes by 17 percent).

Grains are divided into two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. This definition means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain. Some whole grains are: whole wheat. barley. buckwheat, corn (including whole cornmeal and popcorn), millet, oats (including oatmeal), quinoa, brown rice, rye, sorghum, spelt, bulgur, and wild rice. From Eurekalert:

Seven servings of whole grains a day keep the doctor away

Eating three more portions of dietary fiber a day--say, two pieces of whole grain bread and a bowl of whole grain breakfast cereal--is associated with a lower risk for all cardiovascular diseases and for dying of cancer, diabetes, and respiratory and infectious diseases, a study just published in the BMJ has shown. The study is strong proof that consuming lots of whole grains is good for our health, says first author Dagfinn Aune, a PhD candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who is currently working at Imperial College, London.

....In general, the study showed that the higher the consumption, the better protected you are. "We saw the lowest risk among people who ate between seven and seven and a half servings of whole grain products a day, which was the highest intake across all the studies. This corresponds to 210-225 grams of whole grain products in fresh weight and about 70-75 grams of whole grains in dry weight, and is about the same as the health authorities in Norway and other Nordic countries recommend as the minimum daily allowance," says Aune.

The researchers' analyses showed fewer risk factors for people who consumed more bread and cereal with whole grains, as well as foods with added bran. On the other hand, people who ate a lot of white bread, rice or cereals with refined grains did not show reduced risk.

Nine studies with a total of more than 700,000 participants examined the risk for all types of cardiovascular disease and correlated cardiovascular deaths....The risk of dying prematurely from all causes was 18% lower for individuals who consumed a lot of whole grains compared to those who consumed lesser amounts, while three additional servings each day were associated with a 17% reduction in mortality. The risk for deaths associated with cancer (15%), respiratory diseases (22%), diabetes (51%) and infectious diseases (26%) was also lower the more whole grains individuals consumed.

 A plant-based diet (eating lots of plant foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts) once again shows health benefits in a new study - here a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. But what kind of plant-based foods one eats is important: consumption of a plant-based diet that emphasized healthy plant foods was associated with a larger decrease (34%) in diabetes risk, while consumption of a plant-based diet high in less healthy plant foods (soda, fruit juices, sweets/desserts, refined grains) was associated with a 16% increased diabetes risk. From Medical Xpress:

Healthy plant-based diet linked with substantially lower type 2 diabetes risk

Consuming a plant-based diet—especially one rich in high-quality plant foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes—is linked with substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

While previous studies have found links between vegetarian diets and improved health outcomes, including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, this new study is the first to make distinctions between healthy plant-based diets and less healthy ones that include things like sweetened foods and beverages, which may be detrimental for health. The study also considered the effect of including some animal foods in the diet.

The researchers followed more than 200,000 male and female health professionals across the U.S. for more than 20 years who had regularly filled out questionnaires on their diet, lifestyle, medical history, and new disease diagnoses as part of three large long-term studies. The researchers evaluated participants' diets using a plant-based diet index in which they assigned plant-derived foods higher scores and animal-derived foods lower scores.

The study found that high adherence to a plant-based diet that was low in animal foods was associated with a 20% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared with low adherence to such a diet. Eating a healthy version of a plant-based diet was linked with a 34% lower diabetes risk, while a less healthy version—including foods such as refined grains, potatoes, and sugar-sweetened beverages—was linked with a 16% increased risk. Even modestly lowering animal food consumption—for example, from 5-6 servings per day to about 4 servings per day—was linked with lower diabetes incidence, the study found.

The researchers suggested that healthful plant-based diets could be lowering type 2 diabetes risk because such diets are high in fiber, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids, and micronutrients such as magnesium, and are low in saturated fat. Healthy plant foods may also be contributing to a healthy gut microbiome, the authors said.

 A recent editorial in the journal Cardiology calls exercise the "magic bullet" in preventing all sorts of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. From Science Daily:

Regular physical activity is 'magic bullet' for pandemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease

In an editorial published in the current issue of Cardiology, professors from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University have evaluated the totality of evidence and conclude that regular physical activity bears the closest resemblance to a "magic bullet" to combat the worldwide epidemic of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The statistics on regular physical activity in the United States are bleak; only about 20 percent of Americans (23 percent of men and 18 percent of women) engage in recommended levels of regular physical activity and about 64 percent never do any physical activity. In Europe, the statistics are not much better with only 33 percent who engage in physical activity with some regularity, while 42 percent never do any physical activity.

The authors also point out that physical activity confers important beneficial effects beyond body weight and include blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, colon cancer and possibly even breast and prostate cancers as well as arthritis, mood, energy, sleep and sex life.

Starting in their 30s, Americans and many Europeans tend to gain between 1 and 3 pounds of body weight per year, and by 55, many are between 30 and 50 pounds overweight....The authors note that brisk walking for only 20 minutes a day burns about 700 calories a week, results in a 30 to 40 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and can be performed even by the elderly. They stress that regular physical activity also should include resistance exercise such as lifting weights, which can even be safely performed in the elderly and in patients with heart failure.

 As we know, chronic inflammation is linked to cancer and other diseases. It is long-term persistent low-grade inflammation, and it has a "wear and tear" effect on the body. What causes chronic inflammation? Being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, Western (low fiber, high processed foods and meat) diet, chronic illnesses, viruses or bacteria (e.g., gum disease), smoking, air pollution, stress, excessive alcohol intake. It often does not have symptoms, but doctors can test for C-reactive protein levels (CRP), which increase when the body is inflamed. So you absolutely want to lower chronic inflammation if you can.

High dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in polyphenols, has been linked through many studies with reduced risk for diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation, such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Polyphenols are a class of chemicals or micronutrients found in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

New research looked at 31 polyphenols (alone and in some mixtures) to see which lowered inflammation the most. They found that some mixtures of polyphenols actually had more than an additive effect - that it's more than a sum of the individual polyphenols. They found that the polyphenols resveratrol, isorhamnetin, and curcumin were the most anti-inflammatory. Isorhamnetin is a flavonol that occurs in apples, onions and green tea; curcumin is from the Indian spice turmeric; and resveratrol is present in the skin of red, purple and black grapes, and in especially high concentrations in Itadori tea (from Japanese knotweed). Another important anti-inflammatory polyphenol is vanillic acid, which is found in vanilla, wine, whole wheat, and berries.

Just remember that it is better to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than taking supplements. Foods are more than just one or 2 isolated ingredients, but consist of many micronutrients, microbes, etc , and when eating a varied diet, a person typically has mixtures of many polyphenols in their system at once. The research finds that these polyphenol mixtures interact with one another. Studies  typically find real foods to be superior to supplements in beneficial health effects. From Science Daily:

What foods can help fight the risk of chronic inflammation?

A new study by the University of Liverpool's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease has identified food stuffs that can help prevent chronic inflammation that contributes to many leading causes of death. Inflammation occurs naturally in the body but when it goes wrong or goes on too long, it can trigger disease processes. Uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in many major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain polyphenols, protect against age-related inflammation and chronic diseasesPolyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is already emerging. The health effects of polyphenols depend on the amount consumed and on their bioavailability.

T-cells, or T-lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that circulate around our bodies, scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections. They contribute to cell signalling molecules (cytokines) that aid cell-to-cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. Cytokines are modulated by fruit and vegetable intake.

The study, conducted by Sian Richardson and Dr Chris Ford from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, examined the different potencies of the polyphenols. Sian Richardson, said: "The results of our study suggest that (poly)phenols derived from onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea and açai berries may help reduce the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in people at risk of chronic inflammation. "Older people are more susceptible to chronic inflammation and as such they may benefit from supplementing their diets with isorhamnetin, resveratrol, curcumin and vanillic acid or with food sources that yield these bioactive molecules."