A four-month cure for type 2 diabetes?

By Nadim Nyker
21 March 2017

A new study has shown that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed in just four months with the right balance of exercise, cutting calories and keeping glucose levels under control.

A new study has found that with the right balance of exercise, cutting calories and keeping glucose levels under control type 2 diabetes can be reversed in just four months

The trial, which was undertaken by McMaster University in Canada, managed to restore insulin production in 40 percent of its patients.

Patients followed exercise programmes for four months and were required to burn between 500 and 750 calories a day.

The condition, which is largely considered to be chronic, usually requires a lifetime of medication. But the study's first author, Dr Natalia McInnes, told The Telegraph that "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".

Along with exercise, participants also met regularly with a nurse and dietician to track progress and continued to take medication and insulin to manage their blood-sugar levels.

"The idea of reversing the disease is appealing to individuals with diabetes. It motivates them to make significant lifestyle changes," Dr McInnes added.

“This likely gives the pancreas a rest and decreases fat stores in the body, which in turn improves insulin production and effectiveness."

Dr Richard Eastman of the Sandton Diabetes Centre in Johannesburg says the results aren't surprising because "type 2 diabetes is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits and no exercise".

Exercise was in fact the initial treatment for the disease, Dr Eastman adds. "It used to be about 20 years ago that the first stage in treatment was an intense diet and exercise stage before medication.

"Over the years we found it actually doesn't help the patient. Humans revert to old habits. Like with all diets [people] stick with the diet for a few months and then with work and lifestyle changes you start eating comfort foods, stop exercising again and then the diabetes returns."

Although after exercise the body goes into " what we call a honeymoon period, where your pancreas starts producing insulin normally again, there's no way to tell how long that honeymoon period will last," Dr Eastman says.

"You might have normal sugars for a year, maybe two years, maybe even more, but there's no way to tell when that sugar will convert back to diabetes again.

"Exercise is beneficial but taking medication such as Metformin is even better," he says. "It can lengthen the lifespan of the beta cells in the pancreas so they don't go back into the abnormal stage again."

Type 2 diabetes remains a major problem in South Africa and with the shift in eating habits towards a more fast-food based diet, it's becoming a pandemic, Dr Eastman says.

"A lot more [black] South Africans are [also] being diagnosed with it because they're changing to a more westernised lifestyle: takeaways, lack of exercise and obesity, which causes diabetes and increases the rate of it."

Ninety percent of people with diabetes have type 2 and studies show that between five and 10 percent of any population has type 2 diabetes.

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