Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with weight loss, according to new findings by researchers in the United Kingdom, challenging conventional wisdom that the acquired disorder requires lifelong management. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, type 2 diabetes accounts for around 90 to 95 percent of cases in adults. If more people can benefit from losing weight alone, then that would mean less cost to the health care system, as fewer people will suffer the serious complications of advanced disease, which can include heart problems, neuropathy, vision issues and even amputations. Almost half the people who underwent the diet saw their condition go into remission - providing the strongest evidence yet that diabetes can be eradicated by simply losing weight.
Professor Taylor, lead researcher of the DiRECT trial, commented on the first year results saying, "These findings are very exciting". They could revolutionise the way type 2 diabetes is treated. "Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed", said co-researcher Professor Roy Taylor from Newcastle University.
"Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function".
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.
Worldwide, the number of people with Type 2 diabetes has quadrupled over 35 years, largely due to the growth in obesity. Those numbers are expected to reach 642 million by 2040.
He said: "Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for Type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments".
The program also offered ongoing support to maintain weight loss including CBT and strategies to increase physical activity. 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".
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Almost half - 68 participants - had reversed their diabetes within one year of starting the trial, compared to six in the control group.
The trial, done at the Magnetic Resonance Center at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, looked at 306 participants recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years.
Of the patients in the control group who were not on a weight management protocol, only 4 percent saw their diabetes go into remission. The participants were all given support throughout, including cognitive behavior therapy and were encouraged to exercise. Taylor stresses that the study only addressed people diagnosed relatively recently - within the past six years - and that the effect may not apply to more long-term patients.
Isobel Murray, 65 from North Ayrshire, was one of those who took part. "It has transformed my life", she said.
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.
"When the doctors told me that my pancreas was working again, it felt fantastic, absolutely incredible".
This resulted in 149 people following the intensive weight management program and a further 149 people following current practice (the controls).