The last two decades have seen an explosive increase in the number of people with diabetes globally. There is now an urgent need for strategies to prevent the emerging global epidemic. Several recent successful intervention studies, both lifestyle and pharmacological, targeting subjects with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) have stimulated enthusiasm for prevention of Type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle interventions reduced the incidence of diabetes by over 50% in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study and the Diabetes Prevention Program. Can the findings of these two studies be applied globally? Underpinning the enthusiasm, there needs to be a realistic approach to interventions in both developed and developing nations, and in ethnic groups where a better understanding of the socio-economic, cultural and demographic issues and perceptions surrounding chronic diseases such as diabetes is required. Whether the strategies used in these two studies can be translated into a 'real world' scenario is doubtful. In practice, it is more than likely that a number of strategies will be needed to compliment the lifestyle approach. These will include pharmacological approaches with metformin, acarbose and other agents used to treat diabetes and its complications, currently under investigation. Longer-term follow-up studies will also clarify whether both lifestyle and pharmacological interventions actually prevent Type 2 diabetes, or merely delay its onset.