What is pre-diabetes?

What is pre-diabetes, how do know if you have it, and can you reverse its effects? We answer these questions and more here.

One simple way to test for type 2 diabetes is an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This test involves drinking a large amount of glucose, and then determining how quickly your body clears it from the blood and restores glucose balance.

In healthy people, the glucose level in their blood 2 hours after drinking the glucose will be below 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL). If your glucose level is above 11.0 mmol/L (198 mg/dL) this indicates a diagnosis of diabetes. If glucose levels are modestly elevated (between 7.8 and 11.0 mmol/L) then they likely have impaired glucose tolerance.

This is also known as pre-diabetes, as without significant changes in their diet and lifestyle, many people with these intermediate levels ultimately go on to develop full-blown diabetes.

Almost one in four adults fit into this category.

How do I know if I have pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is usually a silent problem – most people are completely unaware they have it. They often easily dismiss any symptoms associated with transiently high glucose levels as being tired, getting old or other problems. The only way to know is to get the test.

Is diabetes inevitable if I have pre-diabetes?

Although people may have a higher risk of diabetes, this also means the benefits of lifestyle and diet interventions can be much greater as the risk from not doing anything is greater still. By losing weight, increasing activity levels, and eating a healthy diet, it is very possible to bring glucose levels back down to normal, and reduce the chances of diabetes developing.

It only takes five people with pre-diabetes to take diet and exercise interventions to prevent one case of type 2 diabetes over five years


  • Yoon U, Kwok LL, Magkidis A. (2012). Efficacy of lifestyle interventions in reducing diabetes incidence in patients with impaired glucose tolerance: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Metab.Sep 6. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Malin SK, Kirwan JP. (2012). Fasting hyperglycaemia blunts the reversal of impaired glucose tolerance after exercise training in obese older adults. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2012 Sep;14(9):835-41

Last reviewed 03/Jun/2017


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