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Reversing Diabetes: What Does and Doesn’t Work

Important Points:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Weight loss
  • Diabetes reversal
  • Diabetes remission

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.

Diabetes type 2 Reversal

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:

1.    Very Low-Calorie Diet

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.

2.    Exercise

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.

3.    Bariatric Surgery

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.

4.    Intermittent Fasting

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.

What Doesn’t Work?

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:

  • Over-the-counter pills
  • Herbs
  • Supplements
  • Alternative medicines
  • Homeopathic products
  • Prescription drugs

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.

References

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

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Achieving Success with Diabetes Remission

Important Points:

  • Diabetes remission
  • Diabetes reversal
  • Sugar levels
  • Weight loss
  • Type 2 diabetes

Achieving Success with Diabetes Remission

Many people living with diabetes often wonder if diabetes remission is a possibility for them.  For most people this is an achievable goal. If you are willing enough to put in the hard work, you can go for years without taking any diabetes medication while still maintaining normal sugar levels. This article will show you how.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious chronic condition that can cause debilitating effects. It can be a lifelong condition worsening over time, or it can present no problems when going into long-term remission.

Most people embrace a triad approach to treating Type 2 diabetes: medication, diet, and exercise. Some lucky few are able to drop off their medication and still maintain normal blood sugar.  Research shows that many people can achieve a similar level of success in the management of diabetes.

Is diabetes reversal the same as diabetes remission?

Remission is often confused with diabetes reversal, but they mean totally different things. Whereas reversal implies that one is completely cured of diabetes, remission means that a person is living symptom-free for a long duration of time without being on medication. With remission, there is always the awareness that the disease might recur. Our article, seen here, on the difference between diabetes reversal and remission goes into more detail.

 What is diabetes remission?

Diabetes remission occurs in people, suffering from Type 2 diabetes, when they are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels without needing to take any diabetes medication. Diabetes remission is not a cure for diabetes; it simply indicates that Type 2 diabetes may or may not come back. If one resumes normal diet and an unhealthy lifestyle, then their blood sugar is likely to spike making the return of diabetes symptoms more likely.

In 2009, the American Diabetes Association divided Diabetes remission into three categories:

  • Partial remission: blood sugar which does not meet the classification for Type 2 Diabetes; fasting blood glucose 5.5 – 6.9 mmol/l for at least 1 year.
  • Complete remission: normal glucose values i.e. fasting blood glucose < 5.6 mmol/L for at least 1 year.
  • Prolonged remission: normal glucose values i.e.
    fasting blood glucose < 5.6 mmol/L for at least 5 years.

For all the three categories listed above, the patient must have been off all diabetic medication for the given duration of time. According to the American Diabetes Association, when a person combines diet and exercise with blood sugar lowering medication, such as Metformin, they do not qualify as being in remission.

How to Achieve Diabetes Remission

1.    Weight Loss

Losing weight around the waist can significantly increase your chances of remission.

Before embarking on a weight loss journey, it is important to first consult with your healthcare provider in order to make sure it’s safe for you especially if you have other health conditions. You might also need help in determining which weight loss approach would work best for you.

To understand how losing weight can cause remission, we need to draw the link between being overweight and Type 2 diabetes. The fat that builds up around the midsection is dangerous because it surrounds important organs like the liver and pancreas making it more difficult for those organs to work properly. This progression leads to Type 2 diabetes.

Research has shown that almost 50-80% of individuals with type 2 diabetes can achieve remission to a non-diabetic state through weight loss. This has been associated with early and sustained improvement in the functioning of pancreatic beta cells. The easiest way to determine if a person’s type 2 diabetes is reversible is to measure their C-Peptide levels because if they still produce C-Peptide, it’s more likely their diabetes is still reversible.

However, not everyone who develops Type 2 diabetes is overweight. Other factors such as age, ethnicity and family history come into play as well. These factors influence how well the liver and pancreas work, and also where we store our fat. As much as we cannot change these factors, we can influence diabetes type 2 by altering the factors within our control.

Losing extra weight is not a guarantee that one will go into remission, but weight loss on its own has significant health merits for a diabetic person, such as taking fewer meds and having less risk for complications.

2.    Making Diet and lifestyle changes

Research has shown that a low-calorie diet could help people lose weight and go into remission. Not only does switching to a non-inflammatory diet promote weight loss, but it can also reduce insulin resistance. Metabolic inflammation is a key driver for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, so improving insulin sensitivity can trigger remission.

Lifestyle changes, such as taking up regular exercise, will also help to achieve weight loss.

3.    Weight loss surgery for diabetes remission

Bariatric surgery can also help one to achieve remission by helping one eat less and achieve healthy and sustainable weight loss. Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix for obesity and diabetes, however, your doctor may recommend this approach in certain circumstances. Before considering this option, you should show dedication and discipline that you will be able to stick through the weight loss program.

What To Do When You Are In Remission

Diabetes remission may mean different things for different people. For many, it may last for a year before it recurs again, while for others it may disappear for extended periods of time. For most if not all, remission comes with reduced blood sugar, better cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure. These signs are an indication of better health outcomes in the long run.

Once you are in remission, you should strive to maintain the positive health habits that triggered the remission in the first place. Keep going to your regular check-ups and speak to your healthcare team if you’re worried about anything or have any questions. Maintain a positive and hopeful spirit as you work towards achieving prolonged remission.

References

1.   Diabetes UK: What is diabetes? Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/what-is-type-2-diabetes

2.   Diabetes UK: Diabetes Remission. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/treating-your-diabetes/type2-diabetes-remission#remission%20research

3.  Science Daily (2018): Why weight loss produces remission of type 2 diabetes in some patients. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180802141722.html