A new United Kingdom study claims that a severe diet plan can permanently cure type 2 diabetes, even in patients who have had it for years.
Key to the Direct study is the target of achieving a 15kg reduction in weight in patients in the first 12 weeks of treatment using a very low energy diet and then devising methods of keeping that weight off, he added.
After a year, 24% of the diet test participants lost 33 lbs or more, while no one in the control group lost any weight. Over half (57 per cent) of those who lost 10 to 15kg achieved remission, along with a third (34 per cent) of those who lost five to 10kg.
Remission was closely tied to the degree of weight lost, occurring in around nine out of 10 people who lost 15 kg or more, and almost three-quarters of those who lost 10kg or more. Almost half of the group was able to stay off blood pressure drugs without their blood pressure going up.
He added that Global Positioning System should encourage patients to lose weight as soon as possible after the condition is diagnosed. The level of remission depended on the level of weight loss, said the researchers. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how a person's body metabolizes sugar, either because they've developed resistance to the hormone insulin, or their pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. "The weight loss goals provided by this programme are achievable for many people".
The number of cases of type 2 diabetes is soaring, related to the obesity epidemic.
He said: "Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for Type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments". Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed.
Prof. Taylor explains that the trial results suggest that it is not necessary to try to achieve the huge weight losses such as those "targeted by bariatric surgery" to reverse the mechanisms that cause type 2 diabetes.
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. The Diabetes Prevention Program in the US revealed in 2002 that diet and exercise alone can prevent people from progressing from pre-diabetes to diabetes, in some cases better than medications created to control blood sugar. "The big challenge is long-term avoidance of weight re-gain", he said.
Taylor says he intends to follow up on the people in the study for another four years to see if they are able to maintain their weight, and, if they are, whether they continue to remain in remission.
'In the meantime, we need to stress to people with Type 2 diabetes the importance of speaking to their GP, and seeking their support, before trying any kind of low calorie diet'.
"Our findings suggest that even if you have had type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible", says Prof Michael Lean from the University of Glasgow who co-led the study.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, which has committed more than £32.8m to the DiRECT study, welcomed the findings.