Abu Dhabi: An intensive low-calorie-diet-based weight management programme can put Type 2 diabetes in remission for many patients, it was announced in the capital on Wednesday.
A landmark trial by British health-care research charity, Diabetes UK, enrolled 298 participants, and 90 per cent of the participants who lost 15 kilograms or more found that their Type 2 diabetes went into remission. In addition, more than half of those who managed to lose between 10 and 15 kilograms also achieved remission.
Findings from the ongoing two-year study, known as the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), were discussed at the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Congress 2017, which concludes on Friday. The five-day event by the Brussels-based IDF, a global alliance of national diabetes associations, has seen the revelation of path-breaking diabetes-related research, including the DiRECT study.
According to its researchers, the benefits of weight loss were evident in the majority of participants, regardless of whether they had been treated in a primary health-care setting or through a structured weight-loss and support programme.
“These findings are very exciting, and they could revolutionise the way Type 2 diabetes is treated. Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function, and significant weight loss could actually result in lasting remission instead of simply better management of the disease,” said Dr Roy Taylor, lead researcher for DiRECT and professor at the Newcastle University in England. He is managing the trial along with Dr Mike Lean, chair of human nutrition at the University of Glasgow.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when there are raised levels of glucose in the blood because the body cannot produce or use insulin effectively, or produce enough of the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin. Nearly 90 per cent of all diabetes cases are Type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle disease that progresses over time and can lead to cardiovascular disease, blindness or the need for limb amputations if left unmanaged.
According to the IDF, 17.3 per cent of all adults aged 20 to 79 years in the UAE are diabetic, amounting to more than 1.1 million patients. Another 482,000 people remain undiagnosed, and the country sees more than 2,000 diabetes-related deaths a year.
The DiRECT trial measured diabetes through HbA1c level, the amount of glycated haemoglobin which helps provide a three-month average of glucose concentration in the blood. Readings higher than 6.5 per cent indicate that an individual is diabetic, and those between 5.7 and 6.4 per cent could mean that the person is pre-diabetic.
Because conventional wisdom has suggested that diabetes is lifelong, the results of the DiRECT trial can be especially encouraging for patients, Dr Abdul Razzaq Al Madani, president of the Emirates Diabetes Society, told Gulf News.
“We have long known that weight loss is beneficial for a host of metabolic diseases. After all, many long-term diabetics find that their disease goes into remission after bariatric surgery. But knowing that intensive diet-based weight management can be just as effective should inspire many diabetics to take control of their disease,” Dr Al Madani said.
He added that it is patients who have been living with the condition for many years who need the most encouragement.
“Typically, newly diagnosed diabetics often comply with our weight-loss instructions. So we hope that the results of studies like DiRECT will provide the impetus for long-term patients to also make the required lifestyle changes,” he added.
Diabetes in the UAE
1.18 million diabetic adults
17.3% of adults between 20 and 70 years are diabetic
482,500 undiagnosed diabetics
2,160 diabetes-related deaths each year
Source: International Diabetes Federation