New research suggests that a low-calorie diet might help reverse symptoms of type 2 diabetes in men with obesity. The findings of the study add to a growing body of evidence indicating that diabetes is a reversible condition.
Authors of the study looked at 18 men in South Africa who were over the age of 35, had class III obesity, and were on insulin treatment for diabetes. The participants were randomized to one of two groups: one followed a commercially available low-fat, low-calorie diet consisting of vegetables and a vegetable-soup-based meal plan; while the control group received a calorie-restricted meal plan. All participants were encouraged to engage in physical activity according to their abilities and to visit a counseling psychologist at least once a month.
Over the course of 6 months, the team tracked the men’s levels of blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c—using those measures to establish diabetes status. By the end of the study period, one participant’s readings indicated complete remission of diabetes, while another’s suggested partial remission. Overall, the test group showed a significant increase in HDL-cholesterol levels, greater weight loss, and lower HbA1c levels than the control group. The median daily dose of insulin for the test group decreased to less than half of what it was at the start of the trial.
The results fit into a broader stream of evidence hinting that substantial weight loss can reverse symptoms of type 2 diabetes. But the findings are not definitive.
More studies on a larger, more varied sample population monitored over more than 6 months would help build a stronger case for the benefits of the nutrition intervention applied in the study. Still, the implications are encouraging.
For at least one subset of patients with type 2 diabetes, the specially designed low-calorie diet could be safe and effective in establishing a healthier lifestyle.