Achievable Weight Loss May "Reverse" Type 2 Diabetes, New Study Finds
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, 90 to 95% of which are type 2 diabetics. Diabetes, generally, is a leading cause of death worldwide—so if there's even a shred of evidence behind a potential treatment for it, we're all ears, especially if that treatment is fairly doable.
For years there has been research supporting the theory that type 2 diabetes could be "reversed" through fairly drastic lifestyle changes, but it wasn't until recently that researchers discovered another path to remission: achievable weight loss.
A study led by the University of Cambridge found that people with type 2 diabetes who lose 10% or more of their body weight in the first five years after being diagnosed were the most likely to go into remission.
"We've known for some time now that it's possible to send diabetes into remission using fairly drastic measures such as intensive weight loss programs and extreme calorie restriction," says Hajira Dambha-Miller, Ph.D., from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care.
"These interventions can be very challenging to individuals and difficult to achieve," says Dambha-Miller. "But, our results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least five years, with a more modest weight loss of 10 percent. This will be more motivating and hence more achievable for many people."
The study included 867 people who were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between the ages 40 to 69 and took place over the course of five years. By the end of the study, 30% of participants were in remission. Participants whose weight loss was 10% or more within the five years post-diagnosis were more than twice as likely to go into remission when compared to people whose weight stayed the same.
While this certainly isn't a cure-all strategy for type 2 diabetes, it underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle when trying to mitigate a chronic disease. The study also reiterates that extreme diets and calorie restriction are not the only path forward for anyone seeking remission for type 2 diabetes. Healthy weight loss is possible through reasonable calorie deficits created by lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet, and increased physical activity, like exercising.
Here's hoping that this study opens doors to even more research surrounding treatment for diabetes. The lives of millions depend on it.
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