A very low energy diet found to helps people with type 2 diabetes go into remission

by Barbara Hewitt on July 27, 2017

A very low energy diet is a feasible way of helping people with type 2 diabetes into remission but it requires a lot of willpower, new research has found.

Scientists from Newcastle University in England studied a group of 30 people with type 2 diabetes who followed an 800 calorie a day diet for eight weeks.


It was the first qualitative study exploring the acceptability of, and patient experiences with very low energy diets (VLEDs) conducted within a type 2 diabetes remission study called Counterbalance.

The diet consists of 800 kilocalories, of which 600 kilocalories was from three sachets of a liquid diet formula and another approximately 200 kcal from 240g of non-starchy vegetables.

Research has already established blood glucose levels can be returned to normal in people with type 2 diabetes through substantial weight loss using a VLED.

In this study 18 of the 30 participants from the Counterbalance study took part in semi-structured interviews. Of these, 15 participants were interviewed before and after the eight week diet intervention

The researchers found that prospect of diabetes remission, considerable weight loss and long term health improvement provided participants with substantial initial motivation which was sustained through the experience of rapid weight loss, improvements in blood glucose levels, social support and increased physical and psychological well-being.

‘Overall, adherence to the very low energy diet for eight weeks was perceived as much easier than anticipated, but required personal effort. Weight loss and improvements in blood glucose levels lead to a sense of achievement and improvements in physical and psychological wellbeing,’ the study report says.

It also reveals the kind of tactics adopted to help them stick to the diet, including removing food from the environment, planning, avoidance of tempting situations or places, and self-distraction.

One man aged 52 who took part explained how he was distracted by the smells of people all around him eating. ‘I was in town at one point, bakeries everywhere, it was ridiculous, I couldn’t concentrate. I would have lost weight this week and I would have still been on it, but I couldn’t stick to it,’ he explained.

Emotions also affected the people taking part. The researchers found that willpower was one of the most significant factors. Feelings of sadness, loneliness and stressful experiences increased the temptation to eat other things.

‘I was so frazzled I went up to the desk and there were some chocolates right in front of me and I was so tempted to have one but I walked away. Although I walked up to the tin and lifted the lid three times but each time I walked away from it because I thought no, because that would have felt that I had given in and I didn’t want to do that,’ said one woman aged 35.

Losing weight and seeing improvements in their blood glucose levels was, however, a powerful motivator, the research found. ‘It has been the initial weight loss, how quick it has gone off, that is the bit that’s motivating me to continue. I’ve done two and a half stone now and it’s not impossible to do another two and a half,’ said a woman aged 47.

Having to buy smaller clothes, being complimented on their weight loss and support from family and friends also helped people stick to the diet, the study found. Support from healthcare professionals was also helpful.

‘Dietary treatment for reversal of type 2 diabetes is acceptable and feasible in motivated participants, and the process is perceived as highly gratifying,’ the study report concluded but added that further research outside of controlled trial settings is needed to gauge the generalisability of these findings.

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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve December 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

I think I stumbled upon this approach. When I was diagnosed in 2010 my local health team said I had to lose weight. So me being me did exactly that, 3 stones in 3 months !

I’ve never had a high reading since and my local health team have stopped calling me in for annual check ups.

Not really scientific but seems to have worked for me.


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