Low calorie diet may reverse diabetes: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Insulin

A new study has transformed thinking on type 2 diabetes by reporting that an extreme low calorie diet could reverse the condition in just eight weeks.

The research, published in the journal Diabetologia​, reports that a low calorie diet of 600 calories a day for two months can remove excess fat clogging up the pancreas, thus allowing normal insulin secretion to be restored – overturning the long held belief that type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition.

The early stage clinical trail in eleven people reported a 100 per cent reversal of diabetes symptoms during the two month diet period, with 64 per cent of the participants remaining diabetes free three months after the diet had finished.

“To have people free of diabetes after years with the condition is remarkable - and all because of an eight week diet,”​ said Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University, UK, who led the study.

“This is a radical change in understanding Type 2 diabetes. It will change how we can explain it to people newly diagnosed with the condition.

“It has long been believed that someone with Type 2 diabetes will always have the disease, and that it will steadily get worse … we have shown that we can reverse the condition,”​ said Taylor

Study details

Under close supervision of a medical team, 11 people who had developed diabetes later in life were put on an extreme diet of just 600 calories a day, consisting of liquid diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables.

They were matched to a control group of people without diabetes and then monitored over eight weeks to measure the production of insulin from their pancreas and fat content in the liver and pancreas.

After just one week, the research team found that pre-breakfast blood sugar levels had returned to normal, whilst scans revealed that fat levels in the pancreas had lowered from an elevated level of eight per cent to the healthy, normal level of six per cent.

In combination with the reduction of fat levels, the pancreas was found to regain its normal ability to produce insulin. As a result, blood sugar after meals was reported to steadily improve.

“We believe this shows that Type 2 diabetes is all about energy balance in the body,”​ explained Taylor, “if you are eating more than you burn, then the excess is stored in the liver and pancreas as fat which can lead to Type 2 diabetes in some people.”

The researchers said that the new insight “allows an understanding of the causality of type 2 diabetes in individuals as well as in populations.”

“It carries major implications for information to be given to newly diagnosed patients, who should know that they have a potentially reversible condition and not one that is inevitably progressive,”​ they concluded.

Source: Diabetologia
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2204-7
“Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol”
Authors: E. L. Lim, K. G. Hollingsworth, B. S. Aribisala, M. J. Chen, J. C. Mathers, R. Taylor

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Posted by Donna Acosta, RD,

Dale, what I meant to say was...talk it over with a doctor before you try a VLCD, whether it's offered through a program of some sort, or you try to follow a VLCD on your own. There are medical risks to VLCDs.(More coffee, please...!)

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Yes, it's possible

Posted by Donna Acosta, RD,

I used to work for a medical group that used HMR, a very low calorie diet (VLCD)based on liquid meals and non-starchy vegetables. HMR was a terrific organization when I worked for them 10 years ago. The liquid meals are by far the best-tasting on the market; the frozen meals aren't half-bad (I loved the lasagna and the chili); and the program doesn't end with weight loss -- it addresses weight maintenance, which is a separate and equally important skills set. There are risks to VLCDs, so be sure you talk it over with a doctor before you decide...or go it on your own.

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wow !

Posted by dale alderson,

Do you think this is possible, can anyone share the methodology with me? While it seems near-impossible to survive on 600 calories a day, I would be MORE than willing to take a run and be a guinea pig for this.

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