Health & Wellbeing

Diet and exercise reverses diabetes in 61% of patients, new trial reports

Diet and exercise reverses dia...
A new study builds on a large volume of evidence suggesting diet and exercise is better than medication for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients
A new study builds on a large volume of evidence suggesting diet and exercise is better than medication for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients
View 1 Image
A new study builds on a large volume of evidence suggesting diet and exercise is better than medication for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients
1/1
A new study builds on a large volume of evidence suggesting diet and exercise is better than medication for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients

The newly published results of a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of diet and exercise as a front-line type 2 diabetes treatment reveal nearly two-thirds of patients achieved complete disease remission after just 12 months of lifestyle interventions.

It is certainly not a newsflash to suggest a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and losing excess weight, helps a person manage type 2 diabetes. However, a constant stream of research over recent years has found many individuals diagnosed with the disease can effectively reverse the condition without the need for medication, using just lifestyle interventions.

This new study presents some of the strongest evidence to date affirming the efficacy of diet and exercise in reversing type 2 diabetes. The trial recruited around 150 subjects, all within three years of their initial type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and with an average age of 42.

The cohort was randomly split between a control group receiving standard care, and an intervention group following an intensive diet and exercise program. The intervention program involved an initial 12-week low-calorie diet known as the Cambridge Weight Plan. Following that initial diet the subjects spent another 12 weeks transitioning to a general healthy diet, albeit still with a degree of caloric control. The intervention group was also urged to complete at least 150 minutes of physical exercise every week, alongside a recommendation of walking at least 10,000 steps each day.

At the 12-month mark the results revealed subjects in the lifestyle intervention group lost an average of 26 lb (12 kg), compared to an average of 9 lb (4 kg) in the standard-care group. An incredible 61 percent of the intervention group were no longer considered diabetic by the end of the 12-month study, compared with just 12 percent reaching similar stages of remission in the standard-care control group.

As with prior studies, the researchers suggest weight loss directly correlates with improvements in diabetic conditions. Shahrad Taheri, from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, set up the trial with colleagues back in 2017 to establish how effectively these simple weight loss interventions could help diabetics of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, as prior studies missed this broad demographic.

“I think it’s a real game-changer for the management of type 2 diabetes,” says Taheri. “It shows that if you lose weight early enough in the disease process, you can actually reverse the disease, and thus avoid all the other health issues and quality of life reductions that come with it.”

A similar study conducted in the UK, and published in 2018, found 46 percent of subjects achieved complete diabetes remission in 12 months as a result of strict weight management intervention. Taheri says this new trial achieved even stronger results because its cohort were on average 10 years younger than the UK cohort, and more recently diagnosed. This suggests that while diet and exercise interventions are beneficial for all ages of type 2 diabetics, the sooner they are deployed the more effective they will be.

“We’re hoping that studies such as these can bring about a big change in the clinical approach to type 2 diabetes across the world – so that we will combine early screening with lifestyle interventions essentially to get rid of this condition straightaway, instead of putting people on multiple medications for life,” says Taheri.

The new study was published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Source: Weill Cornell Medicine

5 comments
Karmudjun
Rich - as a physician I knew that patients who followed my suggestions improved their insulin resistance and diabetes markers. I am no statistician so I may have berated one or two patients whose genome is in the 39% who don't respond so dramatically. In my practice the problem is the age factor - as we age (Yes, WE) it gets harder to motivate ourselves to exercise and to maintain a strict diet. My grandparents practiced this by growing their food in a garden, keeping chickens for their fresh eggs, their only real abuse was store-bought bacon which they augmented their one or two pig's butchered bacon yield. They lived into their 90s without macular degeneration, without diabetes, with only arthritis and the accumulation of fat from years of cornbread and peas. I will continue to berate my patients whose diabetes markers rise in hopes that they take definitive action prior to all the hormonal mechanisms lock into a one way progression!
paul314
It's great that that works, but it will be interesting to see whether that level of exercise and diet control can be sustained. Will health care funders pay for gym memberships the same way that they pay for medications?
David Jackson
They are so behind the curve! The first time I did exactly this was in 2000. I had taken a pre-employment physical, and the results weren't good:
Age, 53; Sex, Male; Race, Black; Height, 69"; WEIGHT, 211 LBS; CHOLESTEROL, 380; BLOOD SUGER, 280. My doctor said to come back in one month, doctor's diagnoses, Type II

35 days later:Age, 53; Sex, Male; Race, Black; Height, 69"; WEIGHT, 175 LBS; CHOLESTEROL, 220; BLOOD SUGER, 110. My doctor said he had never had a patient do that before.

Fast (No pun intended) forward to 2016.
Age, 69; Sex, Male; Race, Black; Height, 69"; WEIGHT, 192 LBS; CHOLESTEROL, 380; BLOOD SUGER, 240.
VA doctor's diagnoses, Type II.

6 Months later:
Age, 69; Sex, Male; Race, Black; Height, 69"; WEIGHT, 165 LBS; CHOLESTEROL, 190; BLOOD SUGER, 105.
The doctor stopped me in the hallway, and mumbled, "Your blood is normal". I said, "Normal for a diabetic"? She could not look me in the eyes to tell me my blood-work was normal.

Both times, I was tested right after my "Pig-out" season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, my January birthday, Valentines day, and Easter.
This year was different. Our house got flooded, so we had no kitchen. New (communicative) VA doctor, blood test in December, 2019, reslts later December: Age, 72; Sex, Male; Race, Black; Height, 69"; WEIGHT, 160 LBS; CHOLESTEROL, 180; BLOOD SUGER, 87.
VA doctor's diagnoses, "Not a trace of Type II diabetes."


To me, it was common sense. to the doctors, "You can't do that!"

alexD
actually, we all know that very well... it's just that "all" the other factors weigh in : eating is delicious, feeling lazy is the norm, exercising ? heck who has the time... the gym stinks, all these crazy drivers want to kill us on bicycles etc.... The education should be from the early age, of course, starting at home, and adding the needed reinforcement in elementary through middle school. I wont dare say high school because by that time you are already either "well training in eating habits" or you are spoiled for good.
But yeah, it does work. Fasting works even better in the very short term.
Bernard Palmer
Diabetes 2 is really interesting. About 35 years ago I discovered that cold and pressure on my trigeminal face nerves could initiate a Diving Reflex which made my tongue flatten out and block my breathing. Very scary. This gave me the idea that this reaction might have something to do with extreme hibernation as seen in cold water drownings and SIDS. Some how I tied this in with fructose and the "Fat Switch" hypothesis by Dr Richard Johnson which could mean diabetes is an excellent method to store the fat needed for hibernation. So maybe if I went into hibernation for a few months I might wake up slim. Seeing as this was impractical at the time I stayed awake and using heaps of allopurinol I fasted for 42 days and lost 24kg from my 113kg storage supply. Diabetes gone.
I kept a log, now named 'How I lost Diabetes in 42 days'. High daily dose of Allopurinol took away the hunger pains and protected my vital organs.