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Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

By Newcastle University
Reversing type 2 diabetes by following a low calorie diet. Image shows hands holding an apple and a donut.

Newcastle University's findings are benefiting people across the globe. 

The World Health Organization has a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025. About 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, with the majority living in low-and middle-income countries. 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year.  

As well as causing serious long-term health problems, including impaired vision, blindness and amputation of the lower limbs and feet, diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.

Defining the cause of diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has long been regarded as a chronic disease and one with a complex, obscure cause. However, research by Newcastle University’s Professor Roy Taylor using innovative magnetic resonance methods has confirmed his Twin Cycle Hypothesis – that Type 2 diabetes is simply caused by excess fat within the liver and pancreas.

In the liver, this fat causes a poor response to insulin and it produces too much glucose. In the pancreas, the fat inhibits insulin secretion. By clearly defining the cause of the disease, treatment can be planned to reverse the processes.

Listen to Professor Roy Taylor talking about the findings of his research for World Diabetes Day by following the link in the Tweet.

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

The research has established that decreasing the fat levels in both the liver and pancreas achieves normal sugar levels by achieving and maintaining weight loss.  

People who followed a low-calorie diet with support from their GP could reverse their Type 2 diabetes to a normal level, to a point where they no longer needed medication. Importantly, the recent findings show that diabetes stays away providing that the excess weight is not allowed to reaccumulate. 

Most recently, the Newcastle research has shown that the small, shrunken pancreas found in Type 2 diabetes actually recovers to its normal size and shape over the two years.

Research trial

One trial, DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial), found that almost nine out of 10 people taking part who lost 15kg or more put their Type 2 diabetes into remission. The study also found that almost half of those were still off all their Type 2 diabetes medication with normal blood glucose levels after one year. 

Results, published in 2019, have identified that one third of people taking part were free of diabetes two years later. Around three quarters of those in remission after a year, stayed in remission at two years and they had fewer serious medical problems. 

A more recent trial has shown that type 2 diabetes in people who have a normal BMI can bring blood sugar control back to non-diabetic levels by losing weight. The mechanisms causing the diabetes were shown to be just the same as in heavier people. Type 2 diabetes simply occurs when an individual passes their Personal Fat Threshold – and can no longer tolerate the amount of fat that happens to be in their organs. It is nothing to do with the idea of ‘obesity’.

These findings are revolutionising the way Type 2 diabetes is treated. It is no longer a life-long condition. Professor Roy Taylor

Rolling out the research

A current pilot of the low-calorie diet in 5,000 patients is showing such success that NHS England has already indicated it should soon be rolled out nationwide. Scaling up the Newcastle clinical trial techniques, patients will be referred to the low-calorie diet by their GP alongside receiving support at doctors’ surgeries and from coaches. So far, in the first 1,500 people, average weight loss of 12.4kg has been achieved in 6 months.

To see the research moving into the NHS to transform thousands of lives is truly exciting. Our research is having an impact on health worldwide. Professor Roy Taylor

Find out more

Information for patients and clinicians on the low calorie diet for reversing diabetes is available on the research website.

About Professor Taylor

Roy Taylor is professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University. His work has shown that Type 2 diabetes is not inevitably progressive and life-long.

At Newcastle University, what we do here makes a difference out there. Keep up to date with our latest research news by signing up for our research newsletter. 


WHO source: https://www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes#tab=tab_1

Tags: Research, Research Excellence, Ageing and Health, Sustainable Development