Type 2 diabetes can be reversed using a concoction of oral medications, insulin, dieting and exercise, according to a groundbreaking study.
The disease affects four million Brits and is typically considered a progressive, chronic condition that requires strict management.
But scientists say the new research could “shift the paradigm” of treatment from simply controlling glucose, to actually inducing remission.
Forty per cent of participants who underwent the medical treatment for four months showed no signs of the condition three months after therapy ended.
The study’s lead scientist, Natalie McInnes from McMaster University, said: “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.”
Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with unhealthy lifestyles, occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or its insulin isn’t working properly.
It stops glucose from being absorbed in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to rise and depriving cells of the energy they need.
In the study, 83 participants were split into three groups.
The first two groups were given a peronsalised exercise plan and a meal plan to reduce daily calorie intake by 500 to 750 calories a day.
They also received oral medications and insulin at night to manage their blood sugar levels.
The first group underwent the therapy for eight weeks and the second for 16 weeks. A third control group received standard care.
Three months after the therapy ended, 11 of the 27 individuals in the 16-week intervention group had complete or partial emission. Six of the 28 individuals in the eight week intervention group also showed complete or partial remission.
By contrast, just four of the 28 people in the control group met the same criteria.
McInnes added: “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.
“This likely gives pancreas a rest and decreases fat stores in the body, which in turn improves insulin production and effectiveness.”
Emily Burns, from the charity Diabetes UK, told the Telegraph: “We know that diet, exercise and medications can help people with Type 2 diabetes to manage their condition.
“We’re starting to see mounting evidence that putting Type 2 diabetes into remission is feasible as well.
“This is really interesting research, but we need longer trials in larger numbers of people to see if their approach works for the long-term.”