New research suggests that people with Type 2 diabetes may be able to reverse their condition by sticking to a low calorie diet.
Researchers from Newcastle University, the University of Glasgow and Lagos University carried out the trial, which involved a group of 30 volunteers who had all suffered from diabetes for less than 10 years. They were asked to follow a very low calorie diet (only 600 to 700 calories per day) for eight weeks, followed by a less radical six-month weight control diet.
At the end of the trial, the average weight loss was two stone and 12 of the patients had reversed their diabetes. Six months later they were still free of the condition, reported the Mirror.
Although the volunteers lost weight by the end of the trial they were still classed as overweight or obese. However they had lost enough weight to remove the fat from the pancreas and facilitate normal insulin production.
Professor Taylor from Newcastle University, said: “What we have shown is 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.
“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.”
Professor Taylor said the results supported the theory of a Personal Fat Threshold, where fat can be stored around the body but above a certain level it is deposited in the liver and pancreas, where it causes damage and can hinder proper insulin production.
“Interestingly, even though all our volunteers remained obese or overweight, the fat did not drift back to clog up the pancreas,” he said. “If a person gains more weight than they personally can tolerate, then diabetes is triggered, but if they then lose that amount of weight then they go back to normal.
“Individuals vary in how much weight they can carry without it seeming to affect their metabolism — don’t forget that 70 percent of severely obese people do not have diabetes. The bottom line is that if a person really wants to get rid of their Type 2 diabetes, they can lose weight, keep it off and return to normal. This is good news for people who are very motivated to get rid of their diabetes.”
While the NHS said it found the science of a Personal Fat Threshold “interesting” it pointed out that the results are from a “small group of highly motivated volunteers.” This calls into question how many people would be able to follow the diet and keep the weight off after it.
The NHS recommends consulting your GP before trying a very low calorie diet and warns of the long-term health implications of “yo-yo” dieting (losing a lot of weight on a crash diet then putting it straight back on afterwards).
A larger trial, involving 280 patients, is now underway to see how successfully people can reverse their Type 2 diabetes through weight loss simply under the care of their GP.