A soup and shake diet being rolled out on the NHS can reverse type 2 diabetes for at least five years, new research has found.
Nearly a quarter of people in remission from diabetes two years after starting a low-calorie diet still had no diabetes three years later.
Experts say this is further evidence that lifestyle changes rather than drugs can help beat the disease, described last week as a ‘rapidly escalating crisis’ in the UK.
They believe that losing weight and keeping it off is the key to curing the serious disease, which has soared alongside obesity rates over the past decade.
The latest findings are a continuation of the initial trial which reduced diabetes cases by nearly half in those who completed the one-year program.
Under the program, participants receive a low-calorie, nutrient-complete soup and shake diet, totaling about 800 calories per day for 12 to 20 weeks. They also receive support from a nurse or dietician to reintroduce healthy foods and maintain weight loss while stopping type 2 diabetes and blood pressure medications. New data from the trial showed nearly a quarter of people in remission from diabetes two years after starting the low-calorie diet were still disease-free three years later
Its early success has so far seen more than 2,000 people start treatment under the NHS England Low Calorie Diet scheme, offered in around half of England’s health boards.
The full expansion of the program is expected to be completed by next March, with doctors hoping it will save tens of thousands of people from developing the disease each year.
Under the program, participants receive a low-calorie, nutrient-complete soup and shake diet, totaling about 800 calories per day for 12 to 20 weeks.
They also receive support from a nurse or dietician to reintroduce healthy foods and maintain weight loss while stopping type 2 diabetes and blood pressure medications.
At the end of the initial two-year study, 95 of the 149 people in the weight loss program agreed to participate in a three-year extension study.
WHAT IS TYPE 2 DIABETES?
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that causes a person’s blood sugar to become too high.
It is believed that over 4 million people in the UK have some form of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight, and you may be more likely to get it if it runs in the family.
The condition means that the body does not respond properly to insulin – the hormone that controls blood sugar absorption – and cannot properly regulate blood glucose levels.
Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes because the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.
Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and controlling symptoms.
Symptoms include fatigue, feeling thirsty and frequent urination.
This can lead to more serious problems with the nerves, vision, and heart.
Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more severe cases may require medication.
Source: NHS choice; Diabetes.co.uk
These new data show that of them, 48 were in remission at the start of the extension study, and 23% of them were still in remission three years later – having managed to maintain their weight.
The proportion of people in remission five years after the start of the original study was more than three times that of the control group, who had just received usual care from a GP.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, research director at Diabetes UK who funded the study, said the new findings confirm that it is possible to stay in remission long-term.
She said: “For those who put type 2 diabetes into remission, it can be life changing, providing a better chance for a healthier future.
“For those unable to go into remission, weight loss can still have major health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of serious diabetes complications such as seizures. heart disease and strokes.”
The results reinforced that remission was strongly linked to weight loss, with those who managed to maintain a healthy weight being more likely to stay green.
Anyone who regained more than just over 4 lbs (2 kg) in years three through five of the study was offered an additional support set, available once a year.
This consisted of low-calorie soups and a shake diet for another four weeks, followed by help while reintroducing normal meals.
Compared to the control group, those who dieted and received support had greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar levels and fewer people needed medication.
The number of serious health conditions leading to hospitalization in the dieting group was also half that of the control group.
The findings come a week after it was revealed that the number of diabetes cases in the UK is believed to have topped 5million for the first time.
Nearly 4.3 million people were living with diabetes in 2021-22, the figures show, with another 850,000 people living with the disease but unaware they had it.
About 90% of diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and is usually diagnosed in middle age, rather than type 1 diabetes, which is a genetic condition usually identified early in life .
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, Head of Diabetes and Obesity at NHS England, said: ‘The NHS is already making the best use of this research for patients through our low calorie diet programme, which has shown fantastic early results; and we plan to expand the program nationwide, giving thousands more the chance to lose weight and improve their health.
“With participants losing more than two stones in three months on average and now that weight loss at six months, rolling out low calorie diets on the NHS can help many more people reverse the trend of type 2 diabetes and potentially reduce their risk of serious health consequences.