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Abstract Background: Education plays a key role in the development of self-management skills for people with type 2 diabetes, although there is limited evidence for the use of video education. Aims: To develop a video-based lifestyle education programme for people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and to evaluate changes in knowledge, biomedical indices and quality of life. Methods: Forty-two newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic subjects were recruited and randomly allocated to either a video education or control group. Data were collected at baseline and 6 months after the intervention. Subjects (43% male) had a mean (SD) age of 60.8 (9.6) years, weight 89.5 (15.5) kg, BMI 31.3 (5.1) kg m2, glycated haemoglobin (A1c) 7.4 (1.7)%, total cholesterol 4.7 (1.2) mmol L−1, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol 1.15 (0.34) mmol L−1, triglycerides 1.8 (1.0) mmol L−1, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol 2.8 (1.0) mmol L−1, pedometer reading 5721 (3446) steps per day. There were 63.7% correct answers given to the ADKnowl questionnaire and the WHO-5 Well-Being score was 65.8%. Results: At 6 months, the intervention group showed increased knowledge compared to controls (74.3% versus 56.4% correct answers, P ≤ 0.0001). Although there were no significant differences in changes over 6 months between the two groups, the intervention group showed improvements in A1c (−0.7%, P = 0.024), total cholesterol (−0.5 mmol L−1, P = 0.017), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (−0.5, P = 0.018) and increased physical activity measured by pedometer (1266 steps per day, P = 0.043) from baseline, with no significant changes in the control group. Conclusions: A brief video intervention increased diabetes knowledge amongst those newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and may comprise an effective way of directing education to such individuals.