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Weight Loss Really Can Reverse Diabetes, New Study Finds

Weight Loss Really Can Reverse Diabetes, New Study Finds
From TIME - December 5, 2017

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects 422 million people worldwide. For decades, doctors have treated it with medications designed to keep blood sugar levels down.

But in a paper published in the Lancet, researchers in the UK describe a landmark study in which people with diabetes went into remissionjust by losing weight.

Nearly half of people in the study who were given a six-month diet plan and lost an average of 30 pounds went into remission and no longer had diabetes. None took any medications during that time to control their disease and relied on weight loss alone.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by the bodys in ability to break down sugars from the diet. Normally, cells in the pancreas work to release insulin, a hormone that can process sugar and either send it to cells that need it for energy or store it as fat for future energy needs. Cells in the liver are responsible for clearing insulin from the circulation. But excess fat in the pancreas and liver can start to shut down these insulin-producing cells, leading to spikes in blood sugar levels. Diabetes medications can bring sugar levels down but do not address the compromised insulin machinery.

In the study, Dr. Roy Taylor, professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University, and his colleagues randomly assigned nearly 300 people to either a weight management program or their usual treatments, including diabetes medications. All of the people had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the six years preceding the study. The people assigned to the diet group stopped any diabetes drugs they were taking on the same day they began the diet.

The diet, which was designed to help people lose up to 30 pounds, involved three to five months of a strict low-calorie liquid formula diet averaging no more than 850 calories a day, followed by two to eight weeks of reintroducing food, along with nutritional education and cognitive behavioral therapy to help people stick with the new eating plan.

Taylor and his team tracked outcomes including weight loss, diabetes remission and level of fat in the pancreas and liver. After a year, most of the people in the diet group lost about 22 pounds, compared to two pounds in the control group. Nearly a quarter of the people who managed their weight were able to lose 33 pounds or more, while none in the control group were able to lose that much. Most importantly, 46% of the people in the diet group went into remission with their diabetes, compared to just 4% in the control group.

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