The finding of a new study that a liquid, low-calorie diet resulting in significant weight loss can put diabetes in remission without medication, could be a ray of hope to millions affected by the condition. The clinical trial, done at the Magnetic Resonance Centre at Newcastle University in the UK, looked at 306 participants recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years. Half were given normal diabetes treatment, including medications and weight-loss counselling, while the other half were put only on a strict low-calorie diet. The diet provided just 825 to 853 calories per day, made up of four shakes or soups for three to five months, followed by slow reintroduction of food over two to eight weeks. The participants were also given cognitive behaviour therapy for maintaining proper nutritional habits and encouraged to exercise.
After a year, 24% of the diet test participants lost 15kg or more, while no one in the control group lost any weight. While 46% of participants in the test group reversed their diabetes and went into remission, only 4% of the control group saw their diabetes go away. As many as 31 of 36 participants who lost 15kg or more experienced remission. Describing the findings as very exciting, Prof Roy Taylor from Newcastle University, lead researcher in the trial funded by Diabetes UK, said they could revolutionise the way type 2 diabetes is treated. “This builds on the work into the underlying cause of the condition, so that we can target management effectively,” he explained.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. According to the World Health Organisation statistics, in 2014, 8.5% of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes. In 2015, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.6mn deaths and in 2012 high blood glucose was the cause of another 2.2mn deaths.
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterised by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge. Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes affects the majority of people around the world, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring increasingly frequently in children.
Taylor also highlighted that the impact that diet and lifestyle has on diabetes are “rarely discussed.” This is a very valid point driven home by the study. If diabetes could be reversed through diet and exercise, there is nothing better than that.
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