Losing weight can reverse diabetes without drugs

Leslie Hanson
December 6, 2017

In addition, approximately 90 to 95 percent of the more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. Fat accumulated in the abdomen prevents the proper function of the pancreas.

The condition costs the NHS around £14 billion a year, and can lead to a number of serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or stroke.

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 have on diabetes is "rarely discussed".

"These first year findings of DiRECT demonstrate the potential to transform the lives of millions of people", said Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK. What we're seeing from DiRECT is that losing weight isn't just linked to better management of type 2 diabetes: "significant weight loss could actually result in lasting remission".

Research over a number of years has indicated that type 2 diabetes - often associated with obesity in people - can be reversed by dietary change.

Type 2 diabetes is usually treated with medication and in some cases, bariatric surgery to restrict stomach capacity, which has also been shown to reverse the disease. "Diet and lifestyle are touched upon, but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed", Taylor said.

Prof Taylor said that while bariatric surgery such as gastric bands would reverse diabetes in around three-quarters of patients, it was "more expensive and risky, and is only available to a small number of patients".

The researchers found that nearly half the participants (68 total) were able to put their diabetes in remission without the use of medication after one year.

There were 298 adults on the trial aged 20-65, who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the last six years, from 49 primary care practices in Scotland and Tyneside.

Half of the patients in the study went on a 6-month diet plan, while the other half did not.

The diet involved three to five months of a liquid diet averaging no more than 850 calories a day, followed by two to eight weeks of reintroducing food. The participants were all given support throughout, including cognitive behavior therapy and were encouraged to exercise.

Dr Emily Burns, Diabetes UK acting head of research communications, said: 'Thanks to ground-breaking research like DiRECT we're beginning to change the conversation around Type 2 diabetes, and that's a conversation that Global Positioning System can have with their patients as well. They were also given structured support for long-term weight loss management.

The two-year study, funded by Diabetes UK, set about finding an effective and accessible way to put type 2 diabetes into remission for the long term. "I don't think of myself as a diabetic anymore".

In general, weight loss over 10 pounds showed promise of reversing diabetes in patients, the authors concluded.

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