A new UK study claims that a severe diet plan can permanently cure type 2 diabetes, even in patients who have had it for years.
A clinical trial of nearly 300 people aged between 20 and 65 showed that type 2 diabetes could be reversed after an extreme weight management plan. Eighty-six per cent of patients who lost 15kg (33lbs) or more went into remission.
The trial was supervised by professors Mike Lean and Roy Taylor of the University of Glasgow and the University of Newcastle respectively.
"These findings are very exciting," Taylor told Science Alert. "They could revolutionise the way type 2 diabetes is treated."
The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) randomly assigned patients to either an intensive weight management programme or regular care. The 149 participants in the weight programme would eat soups or health shakes to limit their calorie intake to 825-853 per day for three to five months.
After this first intense stage, other food was reintroduced into their daily diets and they were supported in their weight loss efforts by health professionals, including cognitive behavioural therapists. They also exercised more.
"We've found that people were really interested in this approach – almost a third of those who were asked to take part in the study agreed," explained Lean, a nutritionist.
"This is much higher than the usual acceptance rates for diabetes clinical trials."
Forty-six per cent of those in the weight programme went into remission. The level of remission depended on the level of weight loss, said the researchers.
Of the 36 people who lost at least 15kg 86% reversed their diabetes. More than half - 57% - of those who lost between 10 and 15kg - 28 - also went into remission. Among people who lost between 5 amd 10kg or less, 34% achieved some signs of remission.
In comparison, only 4% of the group treated with regular diabetes care showed signs of remission.
The researchers highlighted how nutrition alone could revolutionise the way we see diabetes treatments.
The patients will have to keep to their healthy habits to avoid reverting back to diabetes, the scientists warned.
The trial will go on until October 2018.