Type 2 diabetes affects 400 million people worldwide and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, and amputations.
While the disease can be managed through a combination of positive lifestyle changes and medication, it is also possible for the high blood glucose levels that define diabetes to return to normal—through significant calorie restriction and weight loss.
An intensive low-calorie diet involving a total daily intake of 700 calories (less than one cheeseburger) for 8 weeks has been linked to remission in almost nine out of ten people with recently diagnosed diabetes and in half of the people with longstanding disease.
However, there is little evidence to show whether the same effect can be achieved by people undergoing less intensive interventions, which are more feasible and potentially scalable to the wider population.
In a recent study led by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that people who achieve a weight loss of 10% or more in the first five years following diagnosis with type 2 diabetes have the greatest chance of seeing their disease go into remission.
The findings suggest that it is possible to recover from the disease without intensive lifestyle interventions or extreme calorie restrictions.
The study is published in Diabetic Medicine. The lead author is Dr. Hajira Dambha-Miller from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care.
In the study, the team used data from the ADDITION-Cambridge trial, a prospective cohort study of 867 people with newly diagnosed diabetes aged 40 and 69 years recruited from general practices in the eastern region.
The researchers found that 257 participants (30%) participants were in remission at a five-year follow-up.
People who achieved a weight loss of 10% or more within the first five years after diagnosis were more than twice as likely to go into remission compared to people who maintained the same weight.
The results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least five years, with a modest weight loss of 10%.
This will be more motivating and hence more achievable for many people.
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