Reversing type 2 diabetes?

It can be exciting to hear that you can reverse type 2 diabetes, but is it really true?  Well it depends on what you mean by reversing….

So, am I cured?

Your doctor will diagnose diabetes if your glucose levels reach a certain level. When someone says ‘reversing’ diabetes what they usually mean is that your levels have returned to non-diabetes ranges.

But have you ever heard the saying that you can change your friends, but not your family? There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, many of which you have no control over.

risk factors for type 2 diabetes

Even if you return your levels to normal, the risk factors that you can’t change, such as age and genes, are still present and may catch up with you eventually. That is why it may be better to think of your diabetes being stalled, halted, or dormant. This is because if you start to think ‘I am cured, my diabetes is gone,’ then you are much more likely to stop visiting your GP for regular health checks such as your HbA1c check. You may even not notice if your blood glucose levels come out of a non-diabetes range, and this can lead to serious complications. For example, regaining weight will store fat back into the pancreas and prevent your insulin working well and  cause your glucose levels to rise again.

Aim to halt diabetes!stop sign

When your blood glucose levels are lower than diabetes levels you are at much lower risk of any complications associated with diabetes which is great news. But how can you get there?

We have to work on the risk factors that we can change. This includes excess weight around our middle. New research has shown that some of the fat we have around our stomach is stored inside the pancreas.  The poor pancreas cells then have trouble making and releasing the insulin we need.  If we can remove some of this fat from the pancreas our insulin can start to work better and our blood glucose levels can be stabilised.

I guess you are thinking, how on earth do I remove fat from my pancreas?

This has been achieved during a research study through weight loss of about 15% of someone’s total body weight. If you weight 100kgs, that’s 15kg weight loss.

How to lose this weight is the great unanswered question! We definitely recommend you discuss you individual circumstances with your diabetes educator or health care professional.

Mindful Eating Quiz - Someone eating food at the table

Weight loss is hard.  Here are some options that have worked for Diabetes WA members;

  • Reduction in calorie intake of 20% for 0.5-1.0kg loss per week, approximately.
  • A combination of increased activity and reducing calorie intake (0.5-1kg/week)
  • Rapid weight loss through a very low calorie diet (this method was used in the studies showing a return to normal blood glucose after 15% weight loss)

Will it work for everyone?

In a recent study, for those who have been diagnosed for a short time (less than 2 years), about 87% of those who managed to reduce fat in their pancreas had glucose levels that returned to non-diabetes levels.  In those who have had diabetes for more than 10 years about 50% lowered their levels to non- diabetes ranges.*

Why does it work better if you are newly diagnosed? Weight loss, particularly at early diagnosis, shows a lasting impact on preserving the insulin made by the pancreas. This can delay the progression of type 2 diabetes.

Top Tips

  • Keeping weight off is hard, we suggest that you choose changes to your eating and exercise that you will do forever.
  • Your new way of eating or being active will work best when it becomes part of your life. Why not get the whole family on board?
  • Slower weight loss is more sustainable in many cases, however for the highly motivated quicker weight loss may be effective.

Are you interested in helping your pancreas to work better?

  • My Healthy Balance is a FREE online, healthy lifestyle program. (external link)
  • Shed-It is a program develop by blokes, for blokes and can help you drop your grabbable gut, without completely giving up life’s luxuries (external link.)
  • Make an appointment with a Diabetes WA dietitian for more specialised advice regarding diabetes and weight loss. Call 1300 136 588.

Bec  header

Bec is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator at Diabetes WA.

*Steven S, Taylor R. Restoring normoglycaemia by use of the very low calorie diet in long- and short-duration Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Medicine 2015; 32,1149-1155.

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7 thoughts on “Reversing type 2 diabetes?

  1. Dawn Hudson-Taylor

    Of course you can reverse Diabetes type 2 – I have known several people who have done it and one was a doctor. However the general advice is that you can’t reverse it and is gloomy and unhelpful. My father had it – and so do I – and it went undiagnosed – or at least I was not advised of it – for several years, so I am taking longer to shed the weight and bring the numbers for sugar down. However the numbers are slowly declining and all my other conditions are good or much improved anyway. I am not taking any medication so I can see what is happening.
    Is it reversible – yes – and how can you say it is dormant? If you give up smoking and your cough vanishes then it will return if you recommence smoking, so the cough is dormant? Diabetics need to make lifetime changes to their diets but I did not receive any good advice on this and was told to take pills and be compliant like others and given the full gloomy prognosis – even though the tablets made me ill. We need to give people a more positive message.
    I tread my own path.
    PS my father died in his mid nineties of old age and I hope to do better than him as I have never smoked etc.

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  2. Peter Wood

    Hi Dawn,
    Dead right. I was Type 2 for over 8 years and just told ”it’s forever, try and loose a bit of weight, exercise [I’m a keen hiker] and take these pills”. I eventually found Dr Michael Mosley’s great book ”The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet”. It’s a roadmap to lose Diabeties altogether. I did it and have binned all my medication. For Diabeties, High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. The lot. More people should be told; adopt this regime and you can avoid pills, creeping Dementia, failing eyesight and possible future amputation. There is a way to spike this insidious disease. It should be spelt out to people.

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  3. Hey Dawn and Peter. Maybe you didn’t get the message here. She’s not saying you can’t push type 2 back the other way, especially if you catch is early, she’s just saying that you can’t reverse your genetics or stop the natural ageing process. Nice article Bec and Well done Dawn and Peter for taking positive action! 🙂

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  4. Sam

    I have Type 2 but I am not fat and am within my weight to height ratio. I don’t add salt or sugar to anything I eat or drink. I eat a lot of veggies and fruit.

    I have recently had both knees replaced (the trauma skyrocketed by numbers and they have proved difficult to get back – I normally hover around 6.5 to 7 but have been at 8 or more since the op)and the physio is difficult but it feels great to be exercising again (I played soccer,afl, cricket and tennis for years)

    I rarely eat crap but my dad and sister are type 1 diabetics so, genetics is my problem.

    I recently tried to renew a script for metformin 500g but was told by the pharmacy that the drug company has not supplied these since early May. Why have the government and all doctors been told this? Are Diabetes Australia aware of this?

    I will read the book and hopefully go from there.

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  5. Peter Wood

    Good luck Sam. Generally speaking I guess my point is that health professionals should be a bit more ”in your face” about radical diet remedies for Type 2. After all creeping Dementia, Blindness and Amputation are pretty radical themselves. I do feel let down that I was told for 8 years that I can only ”manage” this condition, not cure it. In his book, Mosley talks about TOFI [Thin outside, fat Inside] people. He was one himself. The key for some people may be in eliminating some starchy carbs from the diet, such as Bread and Potato that convert so readily to sugar. And actually not being so afraid of some fats, such as those found in eggs and avocado. Genetics is no doubt an issue, but those same genetics have existed for hundreds of years. So why the current explosion in this disease? I had 2 uncles with Type 2. They were both overweight, drank and didn’t eat that well. My mother had the same genes, but didn’t drink and was an exceptionally healthy eater. Diabetes never touched her. I wish I had taken some of her advice earlier. At the core of this problem, I believe, lies the oversupply of calories in our modern lifestyle. And the demonising of fat over sugar. That is where the problem should be aggressively tackled.

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    1. Peter Wood

      We picked up ours in a Target store in Albany W.A., but I’m sure it’s available in many bookshops. Or of course you could always ask Dr Google for details. It’s the same Dr Michael Mosley who’s just done a series screened on SBS about some related health matters.

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