Type 2 diabetes is typically considered to be a chronic health disorder that cannot be cured once it develops. It can only be managed with a combination of medication and healthy living, sometimes paired with bariatric surgery. However, a new study suggests that people may be able to overcome the disorder for set periods, by attempting an intensive short-term course of medical treatment that’s been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes in a significant proportion of patients.
Natalia McInnes, one of the researchers from McMaster University in Canada stated, “By using a combination of oral medications, insulin, and lifestyle therapies to treat patients intensively for two to four months, we found that up to 40% of participants were able to stay in remission three months after stopping diabetes medications. The findings support the notion that type 2 diabetes can be reversed, at least in the short term; not only with bariatric surgery, but with medical approaches.”
To investigate whether intensive health treatments could trigger remission in type 2 diabetes patients, the scientists recruited 83 individuals with the condition and randomly divided them into three groups. Two of these groups received the short-term interventions, lasting for 8 or 16 weeks respectively. They were given personalised exercise plans, meal plans that lowered their calorie intake by 500 to 750 calories a day, and regular meetings with a nurse and dietitian. During the treatment period, they also took insulin and a set course of oral medications to help them manage the condition.
The third group of individuals acted as controls, and received standard blood sugar management and health advice during the same period. Three months after the experiment, 11 out of 27 patients in the 16-week intervention group showed complete or partial diabetes remission, as did six out of 28 individuals in the eight-week group. Comparatively, only four of the participants in the control group showed signs of remission as a result of receiving standard, non-intensive health advice.
The team believes this gap is proof that there is a lot more we can do to try and fight off, rather than just manage, the disorder. McInnes said, “The research might shift the paradigm of treating diabetes from simply controlling glucose to an approach where we induce remission and then monitor patients for any signs of relapse. The idea of reversing the disease is very appealing to individuals with diabetes. It motivates them to make significant lifestyle changes and to achieve normal glucose levels with the help of medications.”