Weight Loss Can Reverse Diabetes by ‘reprogramming’ Cells 

weight loss diabetes reversed

People with type 2 diabetes who lose a significant amount of weight could see their diabetes reversed, according to a British study. 

The scientists believe radical weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes can improve how cells in the pancreas function.

Glucose levels

In type 2 diabetes, the body breaks down carbohydrate from food and drink, turning it to glucose, but the insulin that is released doesn’t work properly, and so glucose levels rise. This can mean the pancreas can’t create enough insulin. 

Type 2 diabetes is known to be a lifelong condition that needs to be managed through losing weight, eating healthier and taking medication. However, it has been shown that type 2 diabetes can be reversed by following an extremely low calorie diet. 

Diabetes reversal

This new study has uncovered why significant weight loss can lead to diabetes reversal.

Researchers from Newcastle University had carried out a study of 280 people with type 2 diabetes. Half of them were put on a weight-loss programme that involved eating soups and shakes that totalled no more than 853 calories a day, and stopped taking diabetes medication. The other half of the group continued with usual care of diabetes medication.   

After one year, 46% of people in the diet group had lost weight and had regained control of their blood glucose (reversal of their diabetes). 

The researchers then looked at why some people who had lost weight hadn’t reversed their diabetes.

Beta-cell function

They found that those who reversed their diabetes had sustained improvement in pancreatic beta-cell function. These beta-cells produce, store and release insulin. This research appears to show that losing a substantial amount of weight revives or ‘reprogrammes’ these cells so that they work well again.

The study also found that people who had been diabetic for longer were less likely to be able to reverse their diabetes. Those who didn’t reverse their diabetes had lived with the condition, on average, for 3.8 years. This is compared with 2.7 years in those who managed to reverse their diabetes.

Management approaches

Roy Taylor, one of the study authors, said: “At present, the early management of type 2 diabetes tends to involve a period of adjusting to the diagnosis plus pharmacotherapy with lifestyle changes, which in practice are modest. 

“Our data suggest that substantial weight loss at the time of diagnosis is appropriate to rescue the beta cells.”


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