A low calorie diet can reverse type 2 diabetes, leading expert reveals

by Barbara Hewitt on September 14, 2017

A new understanding of the underlying causes of type 2 diabetes has confirmed the condition is reversible and can be eliminated with a very low calorie diet in just a few weeks.

Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University in the UK, who has been a pioneer of using low calorie diets to treat type 2 diabetes, has revealed his latest research which reveals that losing less than a gram of fat from the pancreas through diet can restart the normal production of insulin.

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He explained that excess calories leads to excess fat in the liver and as a result, the liver responds poorly to insulin and produces too much glucose. Excess fat in the liver is passed on to the pancreas, causing the insulin producing cells to fail.

Taylor, who has been working on diabetes for decades, pointed out that by studying the underlying mechanisms it has been possible to demonstrate the simplicity of type 2 diabetes and this reversal of diabetes through diet remains possible for at least 10 years after the onset of the condition.

‘I think the real importance of this work is for the patients themselves. Many have described to me how embarking on the low calorie diet has been the only option to prevent what they thought, or had been told, was an inevitable decline into further medication and further ill health because of their diabetes,’ he said.

Taylor explained that he is satisfied with his Twin Cycle Hypothesis that type 2 diabetes is caused by excess fat actually within both the liver and the pancreas. So, if excess food intake is sharply decreased through a very low calorie diet, all these abnormal factors can be reversed.

His work has shown that there is a profound fall in liver fat content resulting in normalisation of hepatic insulin sensitivity within seven days of starting a very low calorie diet in people with type 2 diabetes. Fasting plasma glucose became normal in seven days. Over eight weeks, the raised pancreas fat content fell and normal first phase insulin secretion became re-established, with normal plasma glucose control.

‘The good news for people with type 2 diabetes is that our work shows that even if you have had the condition for 10 years, you are likely to be able to reverse it by moving that all important tiny amount of fat out of the pancreas. At present, this can only be done through substantial weight loss,’ Taylor added.

Taylor explained the science behind the mechanisms. ‘Work in the lab has shown that the excess fat in the insulin producing cell causes loss of specialised function. The cells go into a survival mode, merely existing and not contributing to whole body wellbeing. Removal of the excess fat allows resumption of the specialised function of producing insulin. The observations of the clinical studies can now be fully explained,’ he said.

‘Surprisingly, it was observed that the diet devised as an experimental tool was actually liked by research participants. It was associated with no hunger and no tiredness in most people, but with rapidly increased wellbeing,’ he added.

The reversal of the condition comes in phases. The phase one is the period of weight loss due to calorie restriction without additional exercise. A carefully planned transition period leads to phase two which is a long term supported weight maintenance by modest calorie restriction with increased daily physical activity. This approach consistently brings about 15 kg of weight loss on average.

After the details were posted on the Newcastle University website, the diet has been applied clinically and people who were highly motivated have reported that they have reversed their type 2 diabetes and continued to have normal glucose levels over years.

A further study in general practice, the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) funded by Diabetes UK is now underway to determine the applicability of this general approach to routine primary care practice with the findings due before the end of the year.


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.

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