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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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 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.