A “game-changing” diet can help people with type 2 diabetes reverse their condition, even when they’re not overweight.
A scientific breakthrough has already revealed that type 2 diabetes is not a permanent disease and can be reversed by dramatic weight loss with a drastic 800 calorie daily diet.
Since most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, it may have been assumed that only they could achieve this.
But now a study putting normal-weight people on a diet of meal replacement shakes and vegetables has found they can also reverse type 2 diabetes.
Having recently run his first marathon, David Childs seemed an unlikely candidate for type 2 diabetes. But he was diagnosed in June 2020 after suffering severe daily headaches and fainting spells because his blood sugar got too high.
A combination of nutritional shakes and vegetables can help reverse type 2 diabetes in people, even if they are not overweight
A marathon runner who was diagnosed with diabetes is now in remission after a diet of soups and shakes
Having recently run his first marathon, David Childs seemed an unlikely candidate for type 2 diabetes.
But he was diagnosed in June 2020 after suffering severe daily headaches and fainting as his blood sugar levels got too high.
Mr Childs, 48, enrolled in the ReTUNE trial to reverse type 2 diabetes last March, among around 10% of people with the disease who are of a healthy weight.
The father-of-four, from the village of Cleadon in South Tyneside, said: ‘Even my GP didn’t believe I had type 2 diabetes at first.
“I have no family history of diabetes, I’m slim and recently ran a marathon, after several half marathons.
“But unfortunately, even though I didn’t have a beer belly, I had excess fat in my liver.”
“I was determined to stop the pills I was given and reverse them if I could.”
Mr Childs followed a two-month diet of meal replacement soups and shakes to lose around 10% of his body weight.
It took the 48-year-old, who is five-foot-11, down to 82kg (12 stone and 13 pounds).
Mr Childs, who works for a pharmaceutical company, achieved remission from diabetes midway through the trial and has not looked back.
He runs twice a week, tries to eat healthy and has reduced his consumption of crisps and bread.
He said: ‘I was worried that my future would lead to a slow increase in my medication and a risk of diabetes-related health problems.
“Now every morning I still prick my finger to check my blood sugar and every time I see it’s normal I smile to myself and tell myself that I no longer have diabetes.”
About 10% of people with diabetes fall into this normal weight group, which accounts for over 400,000 people in the UK.
Researchers led by Newcastle University recruited 20 people with normal body mass index (BMI) and type 2 diabetes.
Most had an abnormally high amount of fat in the liver or pancreas.
This places them in the group known as TOFI – who are “thin on the outside and fat on the inside”.
But weight loss from the shakes and plant-based diet, followed by several weeks of eating sensibly, helped 70% of people in the trial reverse their diabetes.
Professor Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, who is due to present the results at the 2022 Diabetes Professional Conference in the UK, said: “Almost all participants in our trial were told by their doctor or nurse practitioner not to lose weight to combat their diabetes, as they were of normal weight.
“This is clearly wrong, because we now know that everyone has an individual weight threshold, and if their weight exceeds that threshold, they could develop type 2 diabetes.
“For the majority of people who have had diabetes for less than six years, they can reverse their diabetes through careful weight loss in consultation with a doctor.”
In 2018, a landmark trial of a low-calorie diet to reverse type 2 diabetes showed nearly half of 136 patients remained in remission 12 months later.
The NHS is currently piloting this diet of soups and shakes to tackle the diabetes epidemic in the UK.
But the new study focused on the minority of people with type 2 diabetes who aren’t overweight, giving them detailed medical exams and MRIs of their organs.
The researchers found that the 13 women and seven men appeared to be a healthy weight, but had on average three times more fat in their livers and pancreas than people of the same age without diabetes.
The study group was taken off their diabetes medications and put on a diet of nutritionally complete shakes in flavors like strawberry and chocolate for two to four weeks, along with non-starchy vegetables like zucchini. and mushrooms.
Half of the group – ten people – immediately went into remission from diabetes, having lost an average of 5% of their body weight.
Four others achieved remission after repeating the diet once or twice to achieve weight loss of up to 15%.
The diet of shakes and vegetables (file photo), followed by weeks of healthy eating, saw 70% of trial participants reverse their diabetes
The average weight loss found to help people of normal weight reverse their diabetes and reduce their liver and pancreatic fat to normal levels was 8% of body weight.
An average person participating in the trial, titled Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes upon Normalization of Energy Intake in the Non-obese (ReTUNE), lost 8 kg (one stone and four pounds).
Then they were told to eat healthy, avoiding processed and high-calorie foods, for 12 months.
Around 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes, and 90% of them have type 2 diabetes.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “This groundbreaking study by Professor Taylor and his team advances our understanding of why type 2 diabetes develops and what can be done to treat it.
“Our ambition is for as many people as possible to have the chance to put their type 2 diabetes into remission and live well for longer.
“ReTUNE’s findings potentially bring us closer to that goal by showing that remission is not only possible for people of certain body weights.”
OBESITY: ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE CONSIDERED OBESE
Obesity is defined as an adult with a BMI of 30 or more.
The BMI of a healthy person – calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in meters, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
In children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare young people to others of the same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40% of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
About 58% of women and 68% of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its budget of around £124.7billion, each year.
This is because obesity increases the risk of a number of life-threatening diseases.
These conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness, and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK is occupied by a patient with diabetes.
Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people each year in the UK, making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes the breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in her life.
In children, research suggests that 70% of obese young people have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which puts them at risk for heart disease.
Obese children are also much more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their adult obesity is often more severe.
In the UK, up to one in five children start school overweight or obese, rising to one in three by the age of 10.