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Can type 2 diabetes be reversed by weight loss?

A team led by scientists from Cambridge University has developed less intensive strategies for controlling type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes affects 400 million people globally. It carries the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, and amputations. Several measures previously described to control diabetes involved intensive lifestyle modifications and an extreme reduction in dietary calories. Nevertheless, researchers from Cambridge University have shown that early weight control is strongly associated with normalizing blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. The results of their study were published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

For the study, 867 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, aged between 40-69 years, were selected from different parts of England. The patients were followed up for five years, assessing changes in weight, physical activity, and dietary calories. Their blood glucose and HbA1c were regularly measured.  Remission was defined as an HbA1c level <6.5% without using any diabetes medication or weight-loss surgery.

They found that 257 participants (30%) achieved remission after five years. This result was significant in people who lost ≥10% of their body weight in the first year of diagnosis. It was achieved without any extensive behavioral changes or unattainable dietary restrictions.

Dr. Hajira Daambha-Miller from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care says “We’ve known for some time now that it’s possible to send diabetes into remission using fairly drastic measures such as intensive weight loss programs and extreme calorie restriction. These interventions can be very challenging for individuals and difficult to achieve. But, our results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least five years, with a more modest weight loss of 10%. This will be more motivating and hence more achievable for many people.”

The study included a significant number of diabetic patients from several areas of England and was conducted for a long duration of five years, allowing some generalizability to the general population. Achieving diabetes control with such simple, less intensive measures is an encouraging result. To dig deeper into the effects of weight management in diabetes control, the researchers are currently conducting another study called GLoW (Glucose Lowering through Weight management).

Written by Dr.Radhika Baitari, MS


Dambha‐Miller, H., Day, A., Strelitz, J., Irving, G. and Griffin, S. (2019). Behaviour change, weight loss and remission of Type 2 diabetes: a community‐based prospective cohort study. Diabetic Medicine.

EurekAlert!. (2019). Type 2 diabetes remission possible with ‘achievable’ weight loss, say researchers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay



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