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New clinical trials have provided the most convincing evidence yet that type 2 diabetes is not necessarily a lifelong disease and that it can be ‘reversed’ even in patients who have had it for many years.
A clinical trial involving nearly 300 people, conducted in the United Kingdom, found that an intensive weight management program aimed at rebalancing type 2 diabetes led to remission in 86% of patients who tested it and who lost 15 kilograms or more. ” These results are very exciting says Roy Taylor, a researcher at the University of Newcastle. ” They could revolutionize the way type 2 diabetes is treated “, he added.
Taylor and his fellow researchers studied 298 adults aged 20 to 65 who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the past six years to participate in a diabetes remission clinical trial. Trial – DiRECT). Participants were randomly assigned to either an intensive weight management program or a standard diabetes program administered by their GP, who acted as a control group.
149 people enrolled in the weight management program had to restrict themselves to a low-calorie formula consisting of simple drinks and soups, limiting their consumption to 825-853 calories (Kcal) per day for three to five months.
After this period of time, more food was slowly introduced into their diet over a period of two to eight weeks. Participants also received support to maintain their weight loss, including cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as help to increase their physical activity levels.
It’s not an easy lifestyle change, but in that case, “if we want, we can.” ” We found that people were really interested in this approach – almost a third of those asked to take part in the study agreed says nutritionist Mike Lean of the University of Glasgow. ” This is much higher than the usual acceptance rate for diabetes clinical trials. “, he adds.
For most people willing to make those sacrifices, the first year’s results (and reported this week) made the effort worth it. Almost 90% of those who lost 15 kilograms or more successfully reversed their type 2 diabetes. More than half (57%) of those who lost between 10 and 15 kilograms also achieved remission.
As for those who lost less weight, between 5 and 10 kilograms, disease reversal still worked for more than a third of them, or 34% of participants.
In the control group receiving standard diabetes treatment, the remission rate was only 4%. So it’s clear that such an interventional weight loss strategy is a good bet for people with type 2 diabetes who want to take effective steps to reverse the disease. In the study, the average weight loss in the weight management group was 10 kilograms, while participants in the control group lost an average of only 1 kilogram.
The researchers therefore suggest that dietary intervention alone could help change the way we think about type 2 diabetes and its treatment, as it is clearly not an irreversible chronic condition, as scientists had previously assumed.
Of course, the reversal is not permanent if affected individuals later return to the unhealthy eating habits that in most cases contributed to the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
DiRECT testing is currently ongoing. It will therefore be interesting to see what percentage of group members will maintain their success. At least for now, it’s clear that many lives have changed.
” Before college, I had type 2 diabetes for two or three years. I was taking various medications that kept increasing and I was getting worse and worse every day. says Isobel Murray, 65, from North Ayrshire, who didn’t hesitate when asked to take part in the clinical trial. ” When the doctors told me my pancreas was working again, it was fantastic, absolutely amazing. I no longer consider myself a diabetic… I am one of the lucky ones in remission “, she added.
A case to watch closely.