Eat Less and Get Better: a New Cure for Diabetes?
The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has risen by 300% since 1980 – the disease affects 450 million people worldwide. There is no definitive cure, but a new study suggests that a low-calorie diet may hold the key.
The disease that comes unannounced
Our body uses sugar to build muscles, produce energy, feed the organs and the brain. Sugar is delivered into cells with the help of insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas. If the body stops producing the necessary amounts of insulin, sugar starts accummulating in the blood instead of going into cells, resulting in the feeling of weakness and fatigues (since the muscle lacks energy), thirst, and a lack of concentration. How, the disease onset is slow, and you may have Type 2 diabetes for years before you learn about it.
The causes for Type 2 diabetes are still not clear, but being overweight is certainly a major factor. In fact, while the disease used to be known and the adult-onset diabetes, the rising rates of obesity among kids lead to a greater prevalence of this illness among children. According to doctors, those who have over 10 kg of extra weight are already at a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. What’s worse, diabetes greatly increases the risks of heart disease, stroke, and kidney and liver damage (more on diabetes complications here).
Management and treatment
So far, there is no pill or other cure that could make Type 2 diabetes go away. Most patients have to take medications daily to keep their blood sugar in check (often resulting in nasty side effects). Intense exercise programs can in theory send diabetes into remission, but few of the obese patients can hope to lose 15-20 kg working out, since for many of them simply walking up the stairs is a real feat. We have already written about the astonishing rates of remission achieved with bariatric surgery (вставить ссылку – статья пока не висит), but such procedures are very costly and available only to a few.
New hope for Type 2 patients
An ongoing study conducted in the UK is taking a novel approach to treating Type 2 diabetes – instead of insulin injections, they are turning to weight loss. Indeed, abdominal fat increases the risk of diabetes, since the pancreas loses its ability to function normally. In the study, participants were fed a low-calorie diet consisting of mostly shakes. For several months, they consumed less than 900 calories daily, after which other foods were slowly reintroduced. Almost all participants lost between 5 and 20 kg, and diabetes remission rates are astonishing: 90% among those who lost over 15 kg, 60% of those who dropped 10-15 kg, and 35% of those who lost 5-10 kg (see the original trial results here). Diabetes remission means that these patients’ pancreas now functions normally, and they do not need insulin injections anymore.
Does this mean that a cure has been found? Perhaps, though the study included only white people, while in fact people of other races (African and Hispanic, for example) have a much higher risk to get Type 2 diabetes. Another major concern is that diabetes can easily return if a patient goes back to eating processed foods and lots of sugar and stops exercising.
Even if diabetes can be reversed with diet, it is still much better to prevent it. Make sure to get your blood tested for sugar every year and watch what you eat. If you are overweight, make sure to exercise regularly, starting with lower intensity yoga workouts and fast walking, cut out processed and artificial foods, and watch out for early signs – remember, Type 2 diabetes can be fatal when left untreated.
Type 2 diabetes – Mayo Clinic
Why Doctors for Diabetics Now Recommend Surgery Instead of Drugs – Scientific American