Is a crash diet the answer to reversing diabetes?

Diabetes is one of the most dreaded health conditions out there. And why wouldn’t it be – having diabetes can easily increase a person’s risk of other deadly health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

Diabetes currently affects more than 30 million adults in the U.S. alone. Why are so many people vulnerable to it?

The answer is simple: Diabetes is a lifestyle disease.

Being inactive and sedentary, coupled with unhealthy eating habits, can lead to obesity, which is one of the key drivers for diabetes. Such habits can lead any person to a life of fluctuating blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.

If obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, then could reversing it consequently reverse this chronic condition?

A team of experts from the U.K. explored the idea that a medically supervised weight loss program – through a form of crash diet – can put Type 2 diabetes into remission.

Reversing diabetes with crash diet

The crash diet study, called DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial), involved participants who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the past six years; were overweight; and had not started to use insulin.

Half of the participants followed the strict diet program of a low-calorie diet via shakes and soups for several weeks, then gradually reintroduced to normal foods. The remaining half received normal diabetes care with their healthcare provider.

There was no exercise routine at the beginning of the study. It was later incorporated into the diet program as the participants worked to maintain their weight loss.

After one year, the researchers found that more than half (57 percent) of participants in the weight loss program were able to reverse their diabetes symptoms. They had lost between 10-15 kg (approximately 22-33 lbs).

Another 34 percent of participants who lost less weight – between 5-10 kg (11-22 lbs) – also went into remission.

In the group that received regular diabetes care, however, only six participants went into remission.

The researchers concluded that even advanced forms of Type 2 diabetes can be entirely reversed through weight loss.

“Our findings suggest that even if you have had Type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible,” said Michael Lean, a professor and chair of human nutrition at the University of Glasgow and a co-leader of the study.

“In contrast to other approaches, we focus on the need for long-term maintenance of weight loss through diet and exercise and encourage flexibility to optimize individual results,” he added.

Remission was defined as having blood sugar levels below 6.5 percent and being off all diabetes medication for at least two months.

The participants who lost 33 lbs or 15 kg of weight via the diet program reduced their risk of diabetes by 86 percent. Those who lost 22 lbs or 10 kg reduced their risk by 50 percent, and those who shed 11 lbs or 5 kg slashed the risk by 34 percent.

Despite these promising results, this approach to reversing diabetes needs further studying. The researchers at DiRECT recommend seeking medical advice before starting any unconventional treatments.

“If you’re thinking about trying a low-calorie diet, it’s really important you speak to your GP and get referred to a dietitian,” said Dougie Twenefour, DiRECT deputy head of care. “This is to make sure you get tailored advice and support.”

Best foods to combat diabetes

For diabetics and pre-diabetics, there is science-backed proof of the health benefits of eating your veggies, just like what mothers always tell their children through the ages. Below is a list of high-nutrient, low glycemic load (GL) foods that are optimal for both people who are already suffering from diabetes, and those who want to prevent it in the first place.

  1. Green vegetables – High intake of nutrient-dense leafy greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale (among others) can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
  2. Non-starchy vegetables – Vegetables like mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplants and peppers are rich in fiber and phytochemicals, and have no adverse effects on blood glucose levels.
  3. Beans – Beans are low GL foods that are packed with fiber and are great sources of carbohydrates.
  4. Nuts and seeds – Nuts are also low GL foods that also have anti-inflammatory properties that prevent the development of insulin resistance.
  5. Fresh fruits – If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth without the adverse effects, choose low-sugar fruits like berries, kiwi, oranges, and melon.

Make health your priority. Prevent diabetes and its dreaded complications with regular exercise and proper nutrition.

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