Diets

Cutting calories and exercising helps type 2 diabetics to reverse the condition

by Barbara Hewitt on March 21, 2017

A combination of cutting calories, exercising and keeping glucose under control can reverse type 2 diabetes, new research has found.

The study in Canada found that 40% of participants were able to stop taking their diabetes medication because their bodies had begun to produce adequate amounts of insulin again.

The trial carried out by a team of researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, involved creating a personalised exercise regime for each participant and reducing their calories by between 500 and 750 a day.

Those taking part also met regularly with a nurse and dietician to track progress and continued to take medication and insulin to manage their blood sugar levels.

The researchers said that the regime worked because it gave the insulin producing pancreas a rest and decreased fat stores in the body, which in turn improved insulin production and effectiveness.

‘The research might shift the paradigm of treating diabetes from simply controlling glucose to an approach where we induce remission and then monitor patients for any signs of relapse,’ said study first author Dr. Natalia McInnes, of McMaster University.

‘The findings support the notion that type 2 diabetes can be reversed, at least in the short term, not only with bariatric surgery, but with medical approaches,’ she pointed out.

To study ways to put type 2 diabetes into remission, the researchers randomly divided 83 individuals with the condition into three study groups. Two of the groups received an intensive metabolic intervention where they were provided with a personalised exercise plan and a suggested meal plan that reduced their daily calorie.

They met regularly with a nurse and dietitian to track their progress and received oral medications and insulin at bedtime to tightly manage their blood glucose levels. One group underwent the intervention for eight weeks, while the other was treated intensively for 16 weeks. After the intervention, individuals in both groups stopped taking diabetes medications and were encouraged to continue with lifestyle changes.

The two intervention groups were compared to a control group of individuals with type 2 diabetes. Participants in this group received standard blood sugar management advice from their usual healthcare provider for the duration of the trial, and they received standard lifestyle advice. Participants in all three groups received usual diabetes care if they experienced a diabetes relapse.

Study participants had their average blood glucose levels from the past two to three months measured using a HbA1C blood test at eight, 20, 28 and 52 weeks to gauge how well their blood sugar was controlled. They also undertook oral glucose tolerance tests.

Three months after the intervention was completed, 11 out of 27 individuals in the 16 week intervention group met HbA1C criteria for complete or partial diabetes remission, compared to four out of 28 individuals in the control group. Three months after finishing the eight week intervention, six out of 28 individuals in that group met the same criteria for complete or partial diabetes remission.

‘The idea of reversing the disease is very appealing to individuals with diabetes. It motivates them to make significant lifestyle changes and to achieve normal glucose levels with the help of medications. This likely gives pancreas a rest and decreases fat stores in the body, which in turn improves insulin production and effectiveness,’ McInnes added.

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The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.