Very low calorie diets to be used in the UK to treat type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on December 4, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are to get help to follow very low calorie diets with the aim of putting their type 2 diabetes into remission.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, explained that it is the start of a longer term plan that has been justified by studies showing that very low calorie diets can help people to lose more weight than expected and bring their diabetes under control.

Weight Loss

(By Rostislav_Sedlacek/

It is the first such scheme in the world and will introduce a nine-month programme to help people to achieve a healthy weight, improve their overall nutrition and increase levels of physical activity.

Online versions of the programme, which involve wearable technologies and apps to help those at risk of type 2 diabetes, will also be provided for patients who find it difficult to attend sessions because of work or family commitments.

From next year patients who are deemed suitable will be prescribed a liquid diet of just over 800 calories a day for three months and then a period of follow up support to help achieve remission of their type 2 diabetes.

This approach will initially be piloted in up to 5,000 people following the Diabetes UK funded DiRECT trial, where almost half of those who went on a very low calorie diet achieved remission of their type 2 diabetes after one year.

A quarter of participants achieved a 15 kg or more weight loss, and of these, 86% put their type 2 diabetes into remission while a more recent trial of very low calorie diets, DROPLET, has demonstrated similar weight loss in obese individuals.

‘The NHS is now going to be ramping up practical action to support hundreds of thousands people avoid obesity induced heart attacks, strokes, cancers and type 2 diabetes. The NHS long term plan is going to give people the power and the support to take control of their own lifestyles so that they can help themselves while also helping the NHS,’ said Stevens.

‘Because what’s good for our waistlines is also good for our wallets, given the huge costs to all of us as tax payers from these largely preventable illnesses. However this isn’t a battle that the NHS can win on its own. The NHS pound will go further if the food industry also takes action to cut junk calories and added sugar and salt from processed food, TV suppers and fast food takeaways,’ he added.

Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2, which is closely linked to obesity. Recent projections also show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke.

‘Around two thirds of adults and one third of children are now overweight or obese, driving higher and higher rates of type 2 diabetes that we are now focusing huge efforts to address,’ said professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director of diabetes and obesity for the NHS in England.

‘Our work so far in this area has been producing really positive results and this announcement will allow us to go even further. It will help patients who have type 2 diabetes to achieve remission and importantly, help more of those who are at risk to not get it in the first place,’ 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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