Dr. Roy Taylor calls it “a watershed moment for diabetes.”
Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University who teaches medicine in metabolism, was talking to Time Magazine about a new study he co-authored with other researchers in the United Kingdom.
The study, published in the journal Lancet, found that Type 2 diabetes can go into remission with just a strict diet and weight loss, no medical treatment required.
That’s good news for the over 100 million Americans who either have diabetes or prediabetes, which can turn into full blown diabetes without treatment in five years, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Just under 10 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, the seventh-highest cause of death in the United States during 2015.
In the study, 306 people between the ages of 20 and 65 years old were split into two groups — one that would undergo a weight management program without their regular medication and the other that wouldn’t go on the diet but keep using their usual medicine.
Those who went on the special diet, who could go back on their medicine if necessary, ate less than 850 calories a day for three to five months on a specialized diet. They then spent two to eight weeks reincorporating regular food into their diets.
After a year, 46 percent of those who took part in that diet had their Type 2 diabetes go into remission, the researchers wrote, compared to just 4 percent of those who just kept taking their medicine.
More specifically, none of 76 participants who gained weight had their diabetes go into remission, while 86 percent of those who lost over 33.1 pounds did.
For those who lost between 22 to 33.1 pounds, just under 60 percent saw the illness go into remission.
That relationship between weight loss and reduction in diabetes suggests people can “prevent or postpone” the disease’s development, researchers wrote in the journal.
“The main risk factors are weight gain and obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and unhealthy dietary pattern—all of which are modifiable,” they wrote, adding that “weight loss, physical activity, and healthy dietary choices” are the best way to fend off the disease.
Matti Uusitupa, a professor at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio who specializes in diabetes, said the study’s findings “strongly support the view that type 2 diabetes is tightly associated with excessive fat mass in the body,” according to MedPage Today.
That’s big news, Taylor told Time.
“People newly diagnosed with diabetes for the first time can look at this and know it isn’t necessarily for life,” he said. “It isn’t an irreversible, inexorable condition that you can never escape from — at the moment, people are told that.”