Researchers to study effect of ultra-low calorie diet for type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on October 11, 2013

New research is to be carried out to find out if an ultra-low calorie diet and weight management can reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.

The £2.4 million research project funded by charity Diabetes UK plans to come up with a definitive judgment on whether this kind of treatment can halt the current epidemic of obesity-related diabetes.

low calorie diet

In 2011, a number of type 2 diabetics were able to improve their condition after spending eight weeks on an 800 calories a day diet

There has already been some research that suggests a low calorie or extreme liquid diet can be viable in terms of sending type 2 diabetics into remission, but researchers have pointed out that more studies are needed.

If proven to be successful it could be offered as a form of treatment for people with type 2 diabetes in the future.

The study is to be carried out by researchers at Newcastle University and the University of Glasgow. It will involve 140 type 2 diabetes patients limiting their calorie intake to just 800 calories a day, mainly in the form of nutritionally complete formula shake, for a period of eight to 20 weeks.

As normal meals are reintroduced, they will then follow a structured, personalised support programme to learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid weight regain.

Over a two year follow up, their results will be compared with another 140 people following current recommendations for losing and managing weight to determine the long term effects of a calorie restricted diet.

Some of the participants will also undergo MRI scans to enable researchers to see what is happening inside the body during the diet.

The interest in the use of very low calorie diets stems from work undertaken in 2011 at Newcastle University which found that 11 people with type 2 diabetes were able to reverse their condition and become diabetes free after spending eight weeks on an 800 calories a day diet.

But experts said that a longer and larger study was needed to better understand the long term effects of these diets and to determine whether the benefits outweigh any adverse effects. They also highlighted the need to find out whether such diet plans are effective on a larger scale as part of routine clinical practice.

It is hoped the results of this study, which is the largest single research project ever funded by Diabetes UK, will offer both the charity and the National Health Service enough evidence to decide whether low calorie diets should be recommended or offered as a standard option for treating type 2 diabetes.

‘Type 2 diabetes will always be a serious health condition but perhaps it won’t always be seen as a condition that people have to manage for the rest of their lives and that worsens inevitably over time,’ said Dr Matthew Hobbs, head of research for Diabetes UK.

‘The 2011 study and evidence from bariatric surgery has shown us that it can be put into remission. If we can do this safely, on a bigger scale and as part of routine care, then following a low calorie liquid diet would be a real game changer in terms of reducing people’s risk of devastating health complications such as amputation and blindness,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the 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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