Intense weight loss with the soups and shakes could reverse type 2 diabetes

A new study looking at the long term effects of losing substantial amounts of weight has found that it could reverse type 2 diabetes in more than a third of the patients. With the rising epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes around the world, this could be an important finding.

Image Credit: Bon Appetit
Image Credit: Bon Appetit

The participants of the study took a specifically low calorie diet comprising of just soups and shakes and a total of around 800 calories per day. They consequently lost substantial amount of body weight. In a third of the patients, this led to reversal of their type 2 diabetes and at the end of two years the patients remained in remission from their disease, the study called Direct found. The results of the study were published in the latest issue of the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.

According to researchers this study shows that type 2 diabetes need not be a lifelong condition. Co-primary investigator of the study, Prof Roy Taylor from Newcastle University explained that type 2 diabetes now can proven not to be an “inevitably progressive disease”. He said in a statement, “We now understand the biological nature of this reversible condition. However, everyone in remission needs to know that evidence to date tells us that your type 2 diabetes will return if you regain weight.”

For the Direct study the team included 49 GP practices across Scotland and Tyneside. Around 300 people with type 2 diabetes and a body mass index between 27 and 45 Kg/ m2 were part of this study. The participants were divided into two groups – half received standard care while the other half received only low-calorie formula meals that was up to 800 calories per day for 12 to 13 weeks of the study. After the study period the group on low calorie diet had a nurse or a diet advisor to guide them back to a normal diet. This helped them maintain the lost weight.

Results showed that at the end of the first year of the study, 46 percent of the participants on the low calorie diet reversed their type 2 diabetes. After two years from the start of the study, 36 percent were in remission from their type 2 diabetes, the study found. Over 64 percent of the individuals who lost over 10kg of their body weight were still free of type 2 diabetes after two years after having shaken it off.

It was expected that some participants would gain back some of the weight that they had lost. Some of them gained weight between the first and the second year. Participants who were in remission after one year however stayed in remission and had a more average weight loss (15.5 Kg) compared to those who did not achieve remission (12 kg on an average). Remission was defined as a persistent HbA1c levels of less than 48mmol/mol (6.5%) without the use of any anti-diabetic medication.

Study leader, Prof Michael E J Lean, MD from Glasgow University in a statement said, “People with type 2 diabetes and healthcare professionals have told us their top research priority is: ‘Can the condition be reversed or cured?’ We can now say, with respect to reversal, that yes it can. Now we must focus on helping people maintain their weight loss and stay in remission for life.”

While the NHS England is planning on following NHS Scotland that has started schemes of calorie restriction for type 2 diabetics, experts have warned that more studies are needed to ensure safety of such interventions. They have warned that calorie restriction is not suitable for all individuals and should be done only under medical supervision and with adequate support. Diabetes UK, the charity that financially supported this study said, “We know type-2 diabetes is a complex condition and this approach will not work for everyone.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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