A ‘game-changing’ diet can help people with type 2 diabetes reverse the condition, even when they are not overweight.
A scientific breakthrough previously found type 2 diabetes is not a lifelong condition, and can be reversed through dramatic weight loss on a drastic 800-calorie daily diet.
Because most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, it may have been assumed only they could achieve this.
But now a study putting normal-weight people on a diet of meal-replacement shakes and vegetables has found they too can reverse type 2 diabetes.
Having recently run his first marathon, David Childs seemed an unlikely candidate for type 2 diabetes. But he was diagnosed in June 2020 after suffering severe daily headaches and fainting, because his blood sugar had become too high
A combination of nutritional shakes and vegetables can help reverse type 2 diabetes in people, even if they are not overweight
Marathon runner who was diagnosed with diabetes is now in remission after soups and shakes diet
Having recently run his first marathon, David Childs seemed an unlikely candidate for type 2 diabetes.
But he was diagnosed in June 2020 after suffering severe daily headaches and fainting, because his blood sugar had become too high.
Mr Childs, 48, signed up to the ReTUNE trial to reverse type 2 diabetes last March, as one of around 10 per cent of people with the condition who are a healthy weight.
The father-of-four, from the village of Cleadon in South Tyneside, said: ‘Even my GP did not believe I had type 2 diabetes at first.
‘I don’t have a family history of diabetes, I am slim, and I had recently run a marathon, after several half-marathons.
‘But unfortunately, while I didn’t have a beer belly, I did have excess fat in my liver.
‘I was determined to get off the tablets I had been given and reverse it if I could.’
Mr Childs completed two month-long diets of meal-replacement soups and shakes to lose around 10 per cent of his body weight.
That brought the 48-year-old, who is five feet 11ins tall, down to a weight of 82kg (12 stones and 13 pounds).
Mr Childs, who works for a pharmaceutical company, achieved remission from diabetes halfway through the trial and has not looked back.
He runs twice a week, tries to eat healthily and has reduced his consumption of crisps and bread.
He said: ‘I was worried my future entailed slowly increasing my medication, and being at risk of health problems from diabetes.
‘Now every morning I still prick my finger to check my blood sugar and, every time I see it is normal, I smile to myself that I don’t have diabetes any more.’
Around 10 per cent of people with diabetes fall into this normal-weight group, which works out as more than 400,000 people in the UK.
Researchers led by the University of Newcastle recruited 20 people with a normal body mass index (BMI) and type 2 diabetes.
Most were found to have an abnormally high amount of fat in their liver or pancreas.
This puts them in the group known as TOFIs – who are ‘thin on the outside and fat on the inside’.
But losing weight on the shakes and vegetable diet, followed by several weeks eating sensibly, helped 70 per cent of people in the trial to reverse their diabetes.
Professor Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, who is set to present the results at the 2022 Diabetes UK Professional Conference, said: ‘Almost everyone in our trial had been told by their doctor or nursing practitioner not to lose weight to tackle their diabetes, because they were a normal weight.
‘That is clearly wrong, because we now know everyone has an individual weight threshold, and if their weight goes above that, they might develop type 2 diabetes.
‘For the majority of people who have had diabetes for less than six years, they can reverse their diabetes through careful weight loss in consultation with a doctor.’
In 2018, a landmark trial of a low-calorie diet to reverse type 2 diabetes showed almost half of 136 patients remained in remission 12 months later.
The NHS is now piloting that soups and shakes diet to tackle the UK’s diabetes epidemic.
But the new study focused on the minority of people with type 2 diabetes who are not overweight, giving them detailed medical examinations and MRI scans of their organs.
Researchers found the 13 women and seven men appeared to have a healthy weight but had on average three times more fat in their liver and pancreas compared to people of the same age without diabetes.
The study group were taken off their diabetes medication and put on a diet of nutritionally complete shakes in flavours like strawberry and chocolate for two to four weeks, along with non-starchy vegetables like courgettes and mushrooms.
Half of the group – ten people – went into remission from diabetes immediately, having lost an average of 5 per cent of their body weight.
Another four achieved remission after repeating the diet another one to two times to achieve up to 15 per cent weight loss.
The diet of shakes and veg (file photo) , followed by weeks of eating healthily, saw 70% of those in the trial reverse their diabetes
The average weight loss found to help normal-weight people reverse their diabetes and reduce their liver and pancreatic fat to normal levels was eight per cent of body weight.
An average person in the trial, called Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes upon Normalisation of Energy Intake in the Non-obese (ReTUNE), lost 8kg (one stone and four pounds).
Afterwards they were told to eat healthily, avoiding processed and high-calorie foods, for 12 months.
Around 4.9million people in the UK have diabetes, and 90 per cent of those have type 2 diabetes.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: ‘This game-changing study from Professor Taylor and his team advances our understanding of why type 2 diabetes develops, and what can be done to treat it.
‘Our ambition is for as many people as possible to have the chance to put their type 2 diabetes into remission and live well for longer.
‘The findings of ReTUNE potentially take us a significant step closer to achieving this goal by showing that remission isn’t only possible for people of certain body weights.’
OBESITY: ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE SEEN AS OBESE
Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.
A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.
This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.
Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.
Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.
As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.