Low-calorie diet shown to reverse type 2 diabetes

Henrietta Brewer
December 7, 2017

The programme included a low calorie, nutrient-complete diet for three to five months, food reintroduction and long-term support to maintain weight loss.

The trial, done at the Magnetic Resonance Center at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, looked at 306 participants recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years. Globally, the number of people with type 2 diabetes has quadrupled over 35 years.

The findings will be published in The Lancet and presented at the International Diabetes Federation Congress in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 by the lead researchers, Professor Mike Lean from the University of Glasgow and Professor Roy Taylor from Newcastle University.

Type 2 diabetes may not have to last forever.

"What we're seeing from DiRECT", he remarks, "is that losing weight isn't just linked to better management of type 2 diabetes: significant weight loss could actually result in lasting remission".

Almost half - 68 participants - had reversed their diabetes within one year of starting the trial, compared to six in the control group. Professor Taylor said: 'Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing the organs to return to normal function'. He said: 'Many GPs will be able to think of personal examples where a patient with type 2 diabetes gets hold of their lifestyle by the scruff of the neck and manages to reverse their disease, so it is pleasing to see that this may be practical on a larger scale.

The researchers said the high rates of reversal showed that weight management should take priority over anti-diabetes drugs as the first-line treatment for people with type 2 diabetes.

The patients will have to keep to their healthy habits to avoid reverting back to diabetes, the scientists warned. "In contrast to other approaches, we focus on the need for long-term maintenance of weight loss through diet and exercise and encourage flexibility to optimize individual results".

Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom who co-led the study said in a statement announcing the findings that the impact that diet and lifestyle has on diabetes are "rarely discussed".

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global diabetes cases have increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. "Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed", Taylor said.

After a year, 24% of the diet test participants lost 33 lbs or more, while no one in the control group lost any weight.

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