An increasing number of people are developing diabetes. But two ground-breaking diet plans are showing that it doesn’t have to be a lifelong condition
Learning that you have type 2 diabetes can be a shock. It is a life-changing diagnosis that can have serious consequences for your health.
The condition means that your blood sugar levels are too high, either because the pancreas isn’t producing insulin properly, or because the body isn’t reacting properly to insulin, known as insulin resistance.
Sufferers often need to take medication for the rest of their lives and the condition can lead to devastating long-term health problems, including blindness, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.
And the number of people affected is growing. According to Diabetes UK, around 4 million people in the UK currently have type 2 diabetes, with 11.9 million at increased risk of developing the disease.
But there is hope. Two new approaches are proving that type 2 diabetes need not be a lifelong condition and that in many cases it can actually be reversed through diet and weight loss.
Intensive low-cal diet
Almost half of patients reversed their type 2 diabetes in a trial run by doctors in Newcastle and Glasgow.
The DiRECT programme involved a primary care nurse or dietitian providing an 800-calorie daily diet of shakes and soups. This was followed by food reintroduction and long-term weight-loss maintenance advice.
Forty-six per cent of patients who started the trial were in remission a year later.
Lead researcher of the trial Professor Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, says: ‘These findings could revolutionise the way type 2 diabetes is treated.’
The study, funded by Diabetes UK, found that those who had significant weight loss had even better results. Almost nine out of 10 people who lost 15kg or more put their type 2 diabetes into remission.
‘Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function,’ says Professor Taylor.
Isobel Murray, 65, from North Ayrshire, followed the DiRECT low-calorie diet programme and put her type 2 diabetes into remission after four months. Over the course of the trial she lost over three and a half stone and no longer needs to take any diabetes medication.
Isobel says: ‘It has transformed my life. I had type 2 diabetes before the study. My various medications were constantly increasing and I was becoming more ill every day.
‘When the doctors told me my pancreas was working again, it felt fantastic.’
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, says: ‘These first year findings demonstrate the potential to transform the lives of millions of people.’
But she stresses that it is not an approach that people should attempt on their own.
She says: ‘Anyone with type 2 diabetes considering losing weight in this way should seek support from a healthcare professional.’
The low-carb approach
Another method which is proving successful is the Low Carb Program, created by diabetes.co.uk.
It only launched two years ago, but already the diet plan has over 265,000 members from 183 countries.
The basis of the programme is to reduce carbohydrates in diets. Individuals can choose a level of daily carbohydrate intake that suits their diabetes needs.
Alison Morgan, 62, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, lost 4st 7lb on the Low Carb Program, and put her diabetes into remission.
She says: ‘When my doctor told me I had type 2 diabetes 20 years ago he said I would have it for life. At first I managed it with tablets before going on to insulin 12 years ago.
‘My diabetes became unmanageable. I developed macular oedema, leaving me nearly blind in my right eye.’
Then Alison heard about the Low Carb Program. She cleared out her kitchen cupboards and threw herself into cooking lots of fresh, nutritious food.
‘Instead of toast and potatoes, I got my carbs from things like cabbage and sprouts that have lower sugar levels,’ she says.
‘Within four months I’d lost 4st 7lb, and I felt better than ever.’
Her blood sugar levels remained stable, meaning she no longer needed to take insulin.
‘The fluid retention in my legs disappeared almost overnight, and incredibly even my eyesight started coming back,’ she says.
‘It’s by no means cured, but now I can make out more shapes than before — and it’s all down to my diet.’
Arjun Panesar, creator of the Low Carb Program, comments: ‘We are demonstrating that it is possible to place type 2 diabetes into remission using a nutrition-focused approach.
‘Most people who complete the program improve their blood glucose levels, sustainably lose weight and reduce their dependency on medication.’
The Low Carb Program is available to download on iOS, Android and as an app at LowCarbProgram.com.
Edited by Hannah Crocker