The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), funded by Diabetes UK and published today in the Lancet, found that after 12 months nearly half of participants had achieved remission to a non-diabetic state on an intensive calorie controlled programme without increasing diabetes medication. More specifically, by reducing the amount of fat being carried in and around the abdomen, as accumulated fat in this region impedes the function of the pancreas.
Professor Taylor, lead researcher of the DiRECT trial, said: "These findings are very exciting".
Type 2 diabetes remission was found to be closely related to weight loss. "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".
Research over a number of years has indicated that type 2 diabetes - often associated with obesity in people - can be reversed by dietary change.
A clinical trial of almost 300 people aged between 20 and 65 showed that type 2 diabetes could be reversed after an extreme weight management plan.
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. Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis centre of excellence for diabetes, metabolic diseases and endocrinology explained to Hindustan Times that the findings did not apply to non-obese individuals, in ethnic group like Indians where such reversal could be inherently hard, and in many Indians who were non-compliant to basics of diet and exercise.
The team previously confirmed that Type 2 diabetes is caused by excess fat within the liver and pancreas, and that consuming a very low calorie diet could restore normal glucose.
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An accompanying commentary backed the researchers' argument that weight loss ought to be the primary goal in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. "Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed", Taylor said.
'In the meantime, we need to stress to people with Type 2 diabetes the importance of speaking to their GP, and seeking their support, before trying any kind of low calorie diet'. Those numbers are expected to reach 642 million by 2040.
The study comes at a time when more than 100 million American adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a report released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These findings present a hopeful option not just for improved management of the condition, but a potential cure. None of the patients took any daibetes medication for the disease during the study and instead focused exclusively on the effects of weight loss on the chronic condition.
Importantly, long-term support by routine General Practice staff was given to help the participants maintain their weight loss.
Among those who lost the most weight the results were even more extraordinary, the Lancet publication shows.