Diabetes 'can be reversed'
Type 2 diabetes can be reversed in just four months by cutting calories, exercising and keeping glucose under control, a trial has shown.
Although the condition is considered to be chronic, requiring a lifetime of medication, Canadian researchers proved it was possible to restore insulin production for 40% of patients.
The treatment plan involved creating an exercise regime for each trial participant and reducing calories by between 500 and 750 a day. The participants also held regular meetings with a nurse and dietician and continued to take medication and insulin to manage their blood sugar levels.
After four months, 40% of patients were able to stop taking their medication because their bodies had begun to produce adequate amounts of insulin again.
The researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, said the programme worked because it gave the insulin-producing pancreas "a rest".
"The research might shift the paradigm of treating diabetes from simply controlling glucose to an approach in which we induce remission and then monitor patients for any signs of relapse," said the study's first author, Natalia McInnes.
"The idea of reversing the disease is very appealing to individuals with diabetes. It motivates them to make significant lifestyle changes.
"This likely gives the pancreas a rest and decreases fat stores in the body, which in turn improves insulin production and effectiveness."
Type 2 diabetes occurs when an individual does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that allows cells to absorb glucose into the blood or when the insulin produced does not work properly.
As a result, blood sugars build up in the body and the cells do not receive the energy they need. Over time type 2 diabetes can lead to damage to the blood vessels, nerves and organs and trigger kidney disease and blindness. It also increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: "We know now that intensive diet changes - with calorie restriction over a few weeks to months can reverse diabetes in many patients but what we need to determine are ways to keep the weight off."