Diabetes is reversible!

One of the fastest growing health problems facing us is diabetes. A brief look at the statistics (from Diabetes UK) for the UK clearly reflects a worrying trend with the year on year prevalence of diabetes on the steady increase. The chart below, constructed from figures readily available from Diabetes UK clearly shows the trend.

While diabetics should never radically change their treatment plan on their own, fascinating new results have just been published showing how powerful diet can be in influencing this growing health crises. Researchers from Newcastle University have clearly shown that a strict low calorie diet can actually reverse the condition by normalizing blood glucose levels, reducing cholesterol levels and even stimulate the pancreas’s insulin producing cells (beta cells) to return to normal!

However, this was a small-scale study and involved just 11 people; 9 men and 2 women. The participants followed a very low energy (calorie) diet based on a special liquid diet formula along with 3 portions of non-starchy vegetables so that the total daily energy intake was about 600 kcal. They were also encouraged to drink around 2 liters of water a day and avoid all sugary or high-energy drinks.

At the end of the 8-week diet trial the study demonstrates that the twin defects of beta cell failure and insulin resistance that underlie type 2 diabetes can be reversed by the very low energy diet alone. Over the trial the average blood glucose levels of those involved fell from 9.2mmol/l to 5.7mmol/l.

While this study involved a drastic dietary change and can’t be considered as a gold standard for managing type-2 diabetes on a daily basis it does dramatically highlight the importance of diet and the power of modifying it. With 50% of diet control diabetics requiring insulin injections after 10 years of diagnosis long term management through diet modification and exercise would be the most sensible way forward for the UK type-2 diabetic population and especially for those with pre-diabetic or borderline test results. The full study was published in the June issue of the journal Diabetologia.

More on the growing prevalence of diabetes

Read Sugar Rush published in the Economist online. The number of adults with diabetes more than doubled between 1980 and 2008, according to a new study led by Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London and Goodarz Danaei at Harvard University and published in the Lancet…


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