Is Type 2 Diabetes Reversible? Yes, and for the Long Term, Say Researchers

It is possible to not only reverse Type 2 diabetes, but to stay free of the condition long term, according to a new study from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. Approximately 29 million people in the United States have Type 2 diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes.

Previous research by Professor Roy Taylor, MD, FRCP, indicated that following a roughly 800-calorie-a-day diet could reverse Type 2 diabetes. However, the study only lasted eight weeks, so it was not clear whether the diabetes would stay away for the long term. To evaluate this, Taylor and his team worked with 30 people who had had Type 2 for six months to 23 years and who were overweight or obese. During the first eight weeks of the study, the volunteers consumed three diet shakes per day, along with about 240 grams of nonstarchy vegetables, for a total of about 600 to 700 calories daily. After eight weeks, solid food was gradually reintroduced at weight-maintaining levels of roughly 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day, or roughly one-third less than the participants had been eating before the study. The volunteers were also seen once a month for six months and provided with an individualized weight maintenance program.

Advertisement

On average, the participants lost 14 kilograms, or about 31 pounds, and did not regain any weight during the six-month study period. And although they remained overweight or obese despite the weight loss, 12 of the participants who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the last 10 years reversed their condition and remained diabetes-free six months later. And after six months, another subject reversed his diabetes. These participants, the researchers say, had lost enough weight to take the fat out of their pancreases and restore normal insulin function.

“We have shown that it is possible to reverse your diabetes, even if you have had the condition for a long time, up to around 10 years. If you have had the diagnosis for longer than that, then don’t give up hope — major improvement in blood sugar control is possible,” says Taylor. “The study also answered the question that people often ask me — if I lose the weight and keep the weight off, will I stay free of diabetes? The simple answer is yes!”

However, obesity expert Arya M. Sharma, MD, who was not involved in the research, was careful to note that “It’s a proof-of-principle study showing that if you lose weight through a diet, there’s a good chance your diabetes will go into remission. But by the same note, if you put the weight back on, your diabetes is going to come back.”

A study including 280 participants is currently being conducted to determine whether this weight-loss approach for reversing Type 2 diabetes can work for people under the care of their family doctor and nurse.

For more information, see the article “Reverse your diabetes — and you can stay diabetes-free long-term” or the study’s abstract in the journal Diabetes Care. And to learn more about reversing Type 2 diabetes, read “‘Reversing’ Type 2 Diabetes: Can It Be Done” by nurse David Spero.

Mohonk Mountain House will soon be hosting a “Diabetes Wellness: From Menus to Mindfulness” weekend. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.

  • RAWLCM

    This study isn’t valid science. Looking at 80 people for eight weeks isn’t even a valid statistical sample. And the conclusion that loosing weight “cures” diabetes is irresponsible. If that were true, thin people wouldn’t develop type 2, and they most certainly do. I myself lost 60 pounds over 12 months and my diabetes got significantly worse.

  • Can diabetes be reversed by medical science? I think it depends what context you are coming from or talking about? Well, it preventive pediatric Medicine, a child can be hopeful with a lot of support from school and home, but however, is this possible for the African American population in Chicago who are over the age of 62? Well, reversing for the black community means that white medical doctors have to stop misinforming us about such a chronic illness like diabetes. Blacks are tired of being miseducated about diabetes. Black in Chicago are tired of being hog washed by white doctors about self managing such a chronic disease. However, the only way contextually speak for the black population 62 and older to reverse diabetes is through developing good coping skills or strategies. For example, faith, church, and prayer does not mix with Insulin or Metformin, because we can’t neither one to reverse diabetes. So, where does that live the Minority Health Status in Chicago?

  • Mark Rackin

    I was first diagnosed with Type 2 about 15 years ago, and given instructions to start regular exercise, eat VERY healthily, and placed on metformin (500mg once a day. At that time my weight was about 250 lb (down from my all-time high of 265), and height ~6ft. Despite the exercise and healthier diet plan, I plateaued at 220 lb. About 6 years ago, I began VERY strenuous exercise, and finally got below the 220 lb level. By 3 years ago, I was down to ~185 lb and taken off metformin completely. I continue to exercise heavily (even at age 72!) and have added some muscle mass along the way; weight is stable at 190 +_3 lb. I had my annual physical today; my A1c was 5.7 (it runs between 5.4 and 5.7). My only remaining diabetes-related issue is neuropathy (only in my toes); apparently that damage doesn’t heal! I take a high dose of gabapentin (2.4g/day) to minimize the nighttime neuropathy attacks. I guess I’m another one of those “non-clinical study” cases that are “only anecdotal.”