Type 2 diabetes is classically known as adult onset diabetes. We used to think it was a chronic, irreversible disease that lasts a lifetime. This has serious public health implications given that the number of people with the condition has quadrupled in the past 35 years. New reports are showing that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed, providing hope for more than 400 million people worldwide who have to manage the condition with insulin or other medications.

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An Overview of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the patient’s body is no longer able to properly use insulin. The end result is a buildup of sugar in the blood while cells don’t receive the energy they need. The condition can be managed by oral medications that manage blood glucose levels, insulin injections that let the pancreas rest, and a managed diet. Patients whose diabetes went into intervention typically had meal plans that reduced their caloric intake by 500 to 750 calories a day.

Health writer Nina Teicholz cited a study by Dr. Hallberg that found that 60% of patients reversed their diagnosis in one year. Given that some patients in all these studies regained the weight and relapsed, it is possible that patients will need “interventions” every couple of years to remain in remission.

Lifestyle Changes Might Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

A study by McMaster University published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism simply adds to the growing body of research that suggests intensive lifestyle changes can manage or reverse the disease. In this study, they found that about 40% of patients on a personalized diet and exercise plan for several months were able to reverse diabetes and remain in remission.

In this study, one group cut their caloric intake by 500 to 750 calories a day while increasing their activity level for 8 weeks, a second group doing it for 16 weeks. Then there was a control group. Both groups stopped taking their diabetes medications at the end of the intervention period. At follow-up checkups three months after stopping diabetes medication, almost half of the 16-week intervention group were still in partial or complete remission, showing that the condition remained reversed by maintaining the healthy lifestyle.

Weight Loss Could Also Have an Effect

A study jointly performed by researchers from the Glasgow and Newcastle University found that significant weight loss sustained over time can reduce and even eliminate diabetes. In their study, nine out of ten of study participants who lost 15 kilograms or more put their diabetes into remission. This is thought to be because the weight loss reduced the fat around the liver and pancreas whose declining function is to blame for Type 2 diabetes. For those who weren’t in remission, weight loss was still linked to better management of Type 2 diabetes. Follow ups a year later found that nearly half were in a non-diabetic state. In comparison, only 4% of the control group had achieved remission.

Losing the weight and keeping it off is proving to be a way to reduce or even eliminate diabetes. It isn’t necessary to lose all the weight, but it is essential to keep it off in order to prevent the fat from interfering in the pancreas’ function.