Going on a strict diet and losing weight could put patients with type 2 diabetes into remission and negate the need for them to continue taking anti-diabetic drugs, new research has found.
The study was carried out at Newcastle and Glasgow Universities and involved 298 adults aged between 20 and 65, all of whom had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in Scotland and Tyneside within the previous six years.
Half of the patients were put on a very low calorie diet of just 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months, before a stepped reintroduction of food began over two to eight weeks. All involved were given cognitive behavioural therapy and encouraged to exercise.
The remaining patients were put into a control group and received care more typical for type 2 diabetes.
At the end of the study period, only four per cent of the control group managed to achieve remission of their condition. However, remission was achieved in 46 per cent of the intervention group and these people were taken off their anti-diabetic drugs.
Even more importantly, the results were even higher the more weight the patients lost. For example, 86 per cent of those who lost 15kg or more put their diabetes into complete remission.
This was the case even when people had been struggling with the condition for up to six years.
Writing in the journal The Lancet, the study authors explained that fat accumulating in the abdomen can prevent the proper function of the pancreas and liver. However, reducing levels of this fat allows the organs to return to normal functioning.
Professor Roy Taylor said: "These findings are very exciting. They could revolutionise the way type 2 diabetes is treated. This builds on the work into the underlying cause of the condition, so that we can target management effectively."
Almost one in ten adults in the UK are affected by type 2 diabetes, which cost the NHS around £14 billion a year. It is usually treated with prescription medication, but the condition is almost entirely avoidable through lifestyle management techniques such as exercise and prevention of weight gain.