Some people with type 2 diabetes who lose weight and keep it off may be able to reverse the disease, according to a British study in the Lancet last December. Under medical supervision, 149 people (ages 20 to 65, mostly obese) who had been diagnosed with diabetes during the past six years stopped taking their diabetes medications and were put on a supervised very-low-calorie diet for three to five months, followed by weight-loss maintenance counseling.
After a total of a year, the participants lost an average of 22 pounds, and nearly half had achieved diabetes remission (based on HbA1c, a measure of long-term blood sugar control) without diabetes medication. Higher success rates correlated with greater weight loss, so that 31 of the 36 biggest losers (who dropped at least 33 pounds) were diabetes-free. Weight loss was also associated with improved quality of life.
Warning: People with diabetes should work with their doctors and should not stop taking their medication or undertake such a very-low-calorie diet on their own.
“Our findings confirm that type 2 diabetes of up to six years’ duration is not necessarily a permanent, lifelong condition,” the researchers concluded, and “should pave the way for this type of intervention to be considered in the routine care of patients with type 2 diabetes who wish to attain diabetes remission.” Longer-term follow-up of the participants is underway. In 2016, a similar but smaller study by some of the same researchers included people who had diabetes for up to 23 years and found that the longer participants had the disease, the less likely they were to achieve remission through weight loss.