A new landmark study in The Lancet reports that weight-loss can reverse diabetes. The British study found that type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition affecting more than 422 million people worldwide, can go into remission simply through weight loss — and no medication.
Weight loss is an important treatment for diabetes
When patients receive a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, doctors usually prescribe medication to control blood sugar levels. In this study, researchers divided 300 participants into two groups. Half went off their medication and used a weight loss program to manage the disease. The other half stuck with their usual diabetes treatment and medication. Those on the weight-loss program lost an average of 30 pounds over the course of three to five months using a liquid diet, along with a period of food reintroduction and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Compared to just 4% in the control group, 46% of the people in the diet group went into remission with their diabetes. All participants had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within six years of the study.
This study shows just how important it is to incorporate weight loss and diet into a treatment plan as soon as a person is diagnosed with diabetes. Dietary changes that include weight loss can help people take control of their disease, avoid serious complications like heart disease and neuropathy, and possibly even reverse the disease.
Why diet works better than medication in treating diabetes
Normally, insulin, the hormone that processes sugar, keeps blood sugar levels in check — by sending sugar to cells for energy or storing it as a future energy reserve. However, when insulin cannot do its job to keep blood sugar levels in check — because of excess fat in the pancreas and liver — blood sugar levels spike. While medication brings down sugar levels, it does not address the inefficient insulin mechanism. Weight loss, on the other hand, addresses the root cause by removing excess fat in the pancreas and liver. This lets the body control blood sugar levels and the insulin mechanism naturally — without drugs that don’t address the root cause.
How to embark on your own weight-loss plan
While the people in this study used liquid meal replacements to lose weight, it’s not a realistic or healthy approach for anyone not in a controlled medical study. Instead, look to a diet that minimizes sugar and carbohydrates. Research continues to demonstrate that diabetes is most closely linked to sugar in diets.
If you decide to embark on a weight loss program for diabetes, first, connect with your doctor and make sure your physician’s treatment philosophy (drugs, diet, and what kind of diet specifically) aligns with your own.