Reversing Diabetes: What Does and Doesn’t Work
About 30 million people in the US have diabetes, and of these, about 8 million don’t know that they have it. Early diagnosis of diabetes can help in the treatment and possible reversal of diabetes. But what is diabetes reversal?
Diabetes reversal is similar to long-term diabetes remission. It is not a definite cure for diabetes but a return to normal blood sugar levels without having to take diabetic medication hopefully for a number of years. This can be achieved through a number of factors which we shall discuss below. Before getting there, let’s shed some light on type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes used to be a disease of the elderly, but with the adoption of a modern lifestyle, even young children are being plagued by this debilitating disease. Genetics and ethnicity play a role in the acquisition of type 2 diabetes, but diet and lifestyle factors are great contributors as well. By controlling the latter, a person predisposed to the disease is able to avoid it in some cases.
Type 2 Diabetes occurs when there is a gradual build-up of insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that removes sugar from the bloodstream and stores it in cells. Over time, a person becomes less sensitive to the effects of insulin leading to a buildup of sugar in the blood, beta cells are further stimulated to produce more and more insulin until eventually they are exhausted and depleted.
Reversal of type 2 diabetes targets the restoration of insulin sensitivity and in some cases the regeneration of beta cells such that a person with diabetes reversal should be able to maintain normal blood sugar levels without the use of diabetes medication. Research has shown that weight loss is one of the most effective approaches to achieving diabetes reversal.
Here are four ways to achieve healthy weight loss and diabetes reversal:
Several studies have looked at the effects of a very low-calorie diet on diabetes. In one study, two people followed a mostly liquid diet of 625-850 calories a day for 2-5 months, followed by a less restricted diet designed to help them keep off the weight they lost. Results showed that a low-calorie diet helps to reduce weight and improve insulin sensitivity. In another study, seven obese patients with type 2 diabetes were put on a very low-calorie diet of 900kcal and 115g of protein. This led to significant improvement in blood sugar control that was mainly attributed to improvements in insulin sensitivity.
Note that these types of diets are extreme. You have to work with a professional who will assess your fitness for undertaking such a drastic approach. Most people who have had success in reversing diabetes with this approach are those who have not had diabetes or a long time; to achieve this, it’s important to start the weight loss journey as soon as possible after you’re diagnosed.
Regular exercise is another way of improving diabetes but must be combined with diet and other measures in order to achieve diabetes reversal. Exercise needs commitment and dedication in order to bear fruit.
Regular exercise is associated with decreased demand for insulin as well as increased sensitivity to insulin. A 2015 study published showed that 67% of participants were able to achieve partial remission by taking part in a 6-month diet and exercise regimen. All the study participants were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Bariatric surgery helps one achieve weight loss by reducing their food intake. This, in the long run, has helped type 2 diabetes patients achieve reversal as evidenced by a 2010 study. A 2013 study reported that 24% of participants with type 2 diabetes achieved remission six years after receiving gastric bypass surgery. The study concluded that:
“Bariatric surgery can induce a significant and sustainable remission and improvement of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic risk factors in severely obese patients. Surgical intervention within 5 years of diagnosis is associated with a high rate of long-term remission.”
Bariatric surgery is suitable only when your BMI is 35 or higher. It works best for people who’ve had diabetes for less than 5 years and are not on insulin. For newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics who are obese, this can be a suitable option to help them reverse diabetes.
Intermittent means going without any food or drink with calories for a given amount of time. For example, you can restrict your eating to eight hours each day and you starve for the remaining sixteen hours. Caution: you need to consult with your doctor before embarking on a fast, even if it’s partial and for medical reasons.
A small study looked at three men between the ages of 40 and 67 who tried intermittent fasting for approximately 10 months. All were able to stop insulin treatment within a month of the study period. According to the author of the study Jason Fung, this showed that intermittent fasting could be effective in reversing type 2 diabetes. This result should only be used as anecdotal. Larger clinical trials need to be conducted to determine the clear effectiveness of this approach.
There is a lot of hype when it comes to diabetes reversal. Shrewd businessmen have tried to exploit vulnerable patients by selling magic pills that they purport to cure diabetes. They come in all forms of preparations such as:
If you or a loved one is living with type 2 diabetes, it is important that you consult with your healthcare provider before embarking on any diabetes reversal program. As much as diabetes reversal is achievable, you need to be wary of greedy scammers eager to make a dishonest buck.
1. Healthline: Type 2 Diabetes Statistics and Facts. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/statistics#1
2. NCBI (2019): Reversing Type 2 Diabetes: A Narrative Review of the Evidence. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520897/
3. NCBI (1998): Early and long-term effects of acute caloric deprivation in obese diabetic patients. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3291612
4. Diabetes UK: Reversing Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.co.uk/reversing-diabetes.html
5. NCBI (2013): Can diabetes be surgically cured? Long-term metabolic effects of bariatric surgery in obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24018646