The programme included a low calorie, nutrient-complete diet for three to five months, food reintroduction and long-term support to maintain weight loss.
Research over a number of years has indicated that type 2 diabetes - often associated with obesity in people - can be reversed by dietary change. "The study builds on the work into the underlying cause of the condition, so that we can target management effectively".
"Our findings suggest that even if you have had Type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible", Michael Lean, a professor from the University of Glasgow in Scotland who co-led the study, said in a statement. As Taylor told The Guardian, "The weight loss goals provided by this programme [sic] are achievable for many people".
Separately, another multi-centre randomly controlled trial called PREVIEW - Prevention of diabetes through lifestyle intervention of population studies in Europe and around the world - is looking at the use of very low energy diets to prevent people from becoming diabetic in the first place.
"Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function".
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Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom who co-led the study said in a statement announcing the findings that the impact that diet and lifestyle has on diabetes are "rarely discussed".
Professor Lean added: "Putting type 2 diabetes into remission as early as possible after diagnosis could have extraordinary benefits, both for the individual and the NHS".
"DiRECT is telling us it could be possible for as many as half of patients to achieve this in routine primary care, and without drugs". "This is much higher than usual acceptance rates for diabetes clinical trials". Thirty-two of the 149 participants in the study, however, dropped out of the program. The other half of patients, who served as a control group, received the best diabetes management available - but that did not include a weight loss program. "When the doctors told me that my pancreas was working again, it felt fantastic, absolutely awesome". The study claims their diabetes went into remission without any medication. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how a person's body metabolizes sugar, either because they've developed resistance to the hormone insulin, or their pancreas fails to produce enough insulin.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, which has committed more than £32.8m to the DiRECT study, welcomed the findings. "We're very encouraged by these initial results, and the building robust evidence that remission could be achievable for some people". They also exercised more.
The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), funded by Diabetes UK and published today in the Lancet, found that after 12 months nearly half of participants had achieved remission to a non-diabetic state on an intensive calorie controlled programme without increasing diabetes medication. Interesting, indeed, as numerous current treatments for type 2 diabetes involve medication and even surgery to restrict stomach capacity.