A large-scale review of clinical evidence concluded that achieving ‘remission’ for people with type 2 diabetes through dietary approaches and weight loss should be the primary treatment goal of GPs and healthcare practitioners.
Corresponding author Dr Duane Mellor at Aston University said: “Accounting for all the evidence, our review suggests remission should be discussed as a primary treatment goal with people living with type 2 diabetes. There are multiple dietary approaches that have been shown to bring about T2DM remission though at present meal replacements offer the best quality evidence. Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to be highly effective and should also be considered as a dietary approach for remission.”
Lead author, Dr Adrian Brown, UCL Division of Medicine said: “Traditionally T2DM has focussed on managing a person’s blood glucose with medication, however the approach doesn’t address the underlying causes of T2DM. There is now a growing body of research that shows losing significant weight, 10-15kg, either through weight loss surgery or dietary approaches, can bring about type 2 diabetes remission (non-diabetic blood sugar levels).”
Expert reviewers analysed over 90 research papers covering international clinical trials and clinical practice data of dietary methods used to treat T2DM. Their findings were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics.
The study found that meal-replacement diets helped 36% people successfully achieve remission, while low carbohydrate diets were able to help 17.6 % of people achieve and maintain remission for at least two years. People who lost the most weight and kept the weight off using both of these dietary approaches were able to stay in remission.
Calorie restricted and Mediterranean diets were somewhat less effective, with only about 5% of people on calorie restricted diets and 15% of people on a Mediterranean diet staying in remission after one year.
There were multiple definitions of ‘remission’: one is a return to non-diabetic blood sugar levels (glycated haemoglobin less than 48mmol/mol), without diabetes drugs. Other definitions however say weight (especially fat around the midsection) must be lost to achieve remission, and others allow medication to be used.
Some reports also suggested low-carbohydrate diets can normalise blood sugar levels even without weight loss, since carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to rise. A low-carbohydrate diet means reduced blood sugar, leading to improved blood sugar control. However, if weight is lost without blood glucose being non-diabetic, the authors are suggesting this should instead be called mitigation, as the underlying mechanisms of T2DM are not being addressed.
Dr Brown said: “The evidence is clear that the main driver of remission remains the degree of weight loss a person achieved. Therefore, for those not achieving weight loss but achieving a non-diabetic blood glucose we are suggesting this isn’t remission per se, but rather ‘mitigation’ of their diabetes.”
The review concluded that while weight loss seems to best predict remission success, it assumes fat loss from the pancreas and liver. Future studies should compare how these diets work for different ethnic groups, as T2DM can occur at different body weights in different ethnic groups.
Dr Mellor added: “Not everyone will be able to achieve remission, but people who are younger (less than 50), male, have had type 2 diabetes for less than six years and lose more weight are more likely to be successful.”
Source: Ashton University