Can a diet reverse diabetes?

Previously thought to be incurable, new research suggests that type 2 diabetes can be put into permanent remission in a matter of weeks by drastically cutting kilojoules.

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Type 2 diabetes is a serious, progressive disease where the body’s inability to use insulin properly inhibits the conversion of glucose into energy.

A five-year study currently being carried out Diabetes UK is looking into whether drastically cutting down kilojoules to reduce weight by 15-20% can cure type 2 diabetes.

Participants in the trial who take medication to control their condition will replace normal meals with diet soups and shakes, eating only 3350 kilojoules a day for eight to 20 weeks.

If successful, this study could lead to the biggest revolution in diabetes treatment since the discovery of insulin in 1921.

The New Low Sugar Diet

“If the very-low-kilojoule diet succeeds on halting, and crucially, keeping Type 2 diabetes at bay, it’ll be transformed from a life sentence involving continuous medication and trips to see the doctor, into a simple condition you can reverse yourself at home,” says Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University, who is co-leading the trial with Glasgow University’s Professor Mike Lean.

How does it work?

Being overweight is a major diabetes risk factor. By reducing the amount of calories that are consumed, the body is forced to burn off fat that is stored around the liver and the pancreas – key organs in the body’s production of insulin.

This fat storage stops these organs from working properly meaning insulin production drops and blood sugar rises. By reducing this fat that is clogging up the liver and pancreas the organs are once again able to work properly.

What it means to you

If the study is successful, it is hoped that industry bodies will issue new guidelines for managing diabetes. In the future, if you have diabetes, instead of being counselled to take up a low-fat, low-salt diet, and eat lots of fruit and veg, you may be told to follow a more intensive weight-loss plan.

Researchers caution that people with type 2 diabetes should wait until all of the evidence is published before going ahead. The full results, due in 2018, should provide definitive answers. You can download this leaflet for more information about the study.

If you have diabetes, it is important to consult your GP before changing how you manage it.

Could you have type 2 diabetes?

You may have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if:
• There is a history of type 2 diabetes in your family
• You are heavier than you were in your mid-twenties – most of us are, but if you were normal weight in your twenties and are 3 kgs heavier now, you should try and lose weight.
• You have a large waist – 80cm or more for women
• Symptoms include: Increased urination and thirst
• Extreme tiredness
• Genital itching or repeated thrush
• Cuts that heal slowly
• Blurred vision

If you’re over 40, or overweight, ask your GP for a blood glucose test.

DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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