Radical diet can reverse diabetes and keep it at bay for five years

Losing weight through a radical low-calorie diet can reverse Type 2 diabetes and keep it at bay for at least five years, research reveals. A landmark study proved for the first time in 2017 that a liquid diet of around 850 calories a day followed by expert support could put the condition into remission. Long-term data now shows some participants remain diabetes-free five years after starting the treatment.

This means they no longer have high blood glucose levels and do not need medication.

Professor Mike Lean, of the University of Glasgow, said the clinical trial had shown diabetes could be kept at bay for up to five years with simple support from a GP practice.

He said: “The weight management intervention also reduced blood pressure and the need for anti-hypertensive drugs.

“The findings are important both for individuals and for national considerations of healthcare costs.

“The programme used in DiRECT (the clinical trial) is a huge improvement on previous management of Type 2 diabetes, but future studies must seek even better ways to help maintain weight loss.”

Obesity is a major driver of Type 2 diabetes and research suggests excessively overweight people are up to 80 times more likely to develop the condition than those with a healthy body mass index (BMI) of less than 22.

The programme involved a 12-week low calorie soup and shake diet, followed by support to gradually reintroduce healthy food and maintain weight loss.

Some 85 people took part in the full five-year study, receiving advice through appointments with a nurse or dietician every three months.

Two years after starting the treatment, 48 had managed to reverse their diabetes.

By the five-year point, 11 of those remained in remission with an average weight loss of one and a half stones.

Overall, 12 percent of people who tried the diet were free of diabetes after five years, compared with just three percent of those in a control group.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, which funded the study, said the research had been “pivotal in transforming the lives of people with Type 2 diabetes” by showing the ­condition could be reversed through weight loss.

She added: “The new findings from DiRECT confirm that for some people, it is possible to stay in remission for at least five years.

“For those who put Type 2 diabetes into remission, it can be life-changing, offering a better chance of a healthier future. For those that aren’t able to go into remission, losing weight can still lead to major health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels, and reduced risk of serious diabetes complications such as heart attack and stroke.”

The NHS has launched a soups and shakes diet programme which has helped thousands of people with Type 2 diabetes lose weight.

Professor Roy Taylor, at Newcastle University, said: “The DiRECT five-year follow-up shows that the rapid weight-loss programme brings about considerable weight loss at five years with low-intensity support.

“The most important question now is how the follow-up programme can be even more successful at an affordable cost.”

The latest findings will be presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2023 in Liverpool next week.

‘I lost 3st…and I’m still in remission’

Kieran Ball lost more than three stone and put his Type 2 diabetes in remission in a year. And eight years later he is still free of the disease.

He credits the DiRECT research for helping “reboot the way I was living”.

Keiran, 47, said: “DiRECT has 100 percent been life-changing.

“Those few months on the low-calorie diet were hard, but I’d do it again, no question.”

Kieran. of Morpeth, Northumberland, added: “I’m so grateful for what being healthy has given me the opportunity to do.

“I’m still in remission and not on any diabetes medication. I can’t quite believe how long it’s been.”

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