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.
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.
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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