Dr. Alka Kanaya and Anita Stewart of University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues at the city of Berkeley Department of Public Health said type 2 diabetes is not something people should assume they will get because it runs in the family.
"It is very preventable, and lifestyle changes can really impact the onset of diabetes," Stewart said in a statement. "You can do something about it."
The study involved 230 people in poor, urban neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Richmond, Oakland and Berkeley. Almost one-third said they faced financial hardship, and 22 percent had less than a high-school education.
Contacted by phone about once a month, half of the people received specific dietary guidance and other lifestyle counseling.
After six months, the study found those who had received the counseling had, on average, lost more weight, were consuming less fat, were eating more fruits and vegetables and showed more improvements in lowering in their blood triglycerides -- a key risk measure for type 2 diabetes.
The finding were published in the American Journal of Public Health.