Healthy Living

Weight Loss Is Key To Reversing Diabetes

Many believe that diabetes is a lifelong condition. But weight loss might be the answer that patients are looking for.

Weight Loss Is Key To Reversing Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by the pancreas not making enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Previously, the medical community and patients believed that a pancreas that did not work properly lasted for life, but this is not the case. New studies have found that weight loss can treat diabetes, and maybe put it in remission.

In a study published in the Lancet, it was found that almost half the type 2 diabetic participants who followed a weight loss regimen had reduced diabetic symptoms. This study proved that diabetes could be reduced using both diet and lifestyle changes.

This is remarkable news, but how can it happen?

Researcher Roy Taylor, Newcastle University in the UK, along with others from various academic institutions, say they have found the answer to reducing diabetic symptoms. In the DiRECT study, participants who had type 2 diabetes for the past six years were observed over a period of time. There, participants were split into two groups. In one group they were given the best diabetic care available while the other group joined an intensive weight management program. They still received attention for their diabetes as well.

In only one year from the start of the trial, 46% in the group assigned to the weight loss program reached normal blood sugar levels. The rest of the exercising participants did not achieve these same results. They may not have exercised or strictly followed the regimen, or their metabolism resisted exercise – whatever the case, they did not lose enough weight to reduce their sugar levels. The study is still trying to discover why this happened.

Taylor and his team wrote that the 46% who responded to the weight loss program showed improvement in the function of their pancreatic cells or beta cells, which store, produce and release insulin.

A light went off in the minds of the researchers. Lose weight, and pancreatic beta cells may not be destroyed in type 2 diabetes.

How much weight do you need to lose? It's actually not that much

When you were first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor encouraged healthy eating habits and exercise to help manage your condition. Eating right and exercising can help you lose weight, and weight loss might be the key to reversing type 2 diabetes.

Losing just 33 pounds often puts diabetes into remission. Why that weight amount? The data is based off of losing 15 kilograms, which equates to 33 lbs. A study published in May 2016 in the journal Diabetes Care discovered that at least 40% of those who lost around 33 lbs. and kept it off for six months, placed their diabetes into remission. Perhaps the key is “keeping it off for six months.”

Doctors and researchers don’t mean that you should lose only 33 lbs. You need to maintain a healthy diet and keep exercising no matter how much weight you have lost.  Co-author of this study, Louise McCombie, research associate at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, says, “Further work on this is ongoing, regarding the actual weight loss needed.”

The conclusion at the International Diabetes Federation in December 2017 stated that although 40% of people who lost 33 lbs. have sent their diabetes into remission, this does not mean that weight loss a sure thing. Not everyone will achieve the same result.

Weight loss and diabetes does have a connection

It is a fact that if you lose or maintain a good weight when you have prediabetes, you can prevent the condition from developing into type 2 diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, state that losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight could be the magic range. Five to 7 percent is only 10 to 14 lbs., if you weigh 200 lbs. That 5 to  7 lbs. could be a lifesaver!

Why does weight loss make a difference? Getting, preventing or decreasing diabetes concerns the fats in your pancreas and liver. In 2011, a study found that losing weight by reducing caloric intake for at least eight weeks improved the function of the beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin resistance and problems with insulin is due to the excess fat in the liver and pancreas.

Again, in the May 2016 Diabetes Care journal, the trick is to keep the weight off. McCombie says, “Weight loss maintenance is vital, and you need to have appropriate strategies in place.”

Changing your lifestyle is the key. If you don’t, you are at risk for slipping back into old eating habits. When that happens, your diabetes will flare up. When you are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you were scared and become committed to exercising and controlling your diet. You saw blood sugar numbers come down and you were encouraged.

After two months, the motivation to maintain the weight seemed to go away, and you returned to your old habits. Maybe you reached your weight set point or the point where losing weight gets challenging. Keep going, even if you reach this set point. Stay in the habit of exercising and eating right. It will pay off in the long run.

Martha McKittrick RD, CDE, from New York City states that if people knew how important losing weight is they would be more reactive. If you have type 2 diabetes, losing weight is essential. Think about it, if you shrink your fat cells, insulin will be produced more effectively. Your pancreas will work less, and beta cells may return to normal.

Steps to reversing diabetes by losing weight: Where should you start?

Motivation is always the key to losing weight. If you make motivation positive and think about your life expectancy, you will lose weight and keep it off.

Try losing the weight gradually. Don’t go to the gym six days a week if you don’t go to the gym now. Build activity into your day. Exercise is one component in preventing type 2 diabetes or moving it into remission. Exercise encourages your muscles cells to use glucose for energy. All you need to do in the beginning is just walk for at least 30 minutes a day.

Make sure your meals are satisfying. Work with a dietitian who specializes in diabetes to help find what works for you. Consulting with a dietitian is not a suggestion, but a vital component to keeping weight down.

Ask for help. Your family and friends are your best advocates for losing weight. Once you tell people about your weight loss goals, people lend their support. Exercise with a partner. Go to the gym. Use exercise videos and have an exercise party once a week.

If you fall off the wagon, McKittrick says, “Commit to getting back on track as soon as possible.”  

She goes on, “This is a long-term thing, not a quick fix. Following radical diets will send you straight back to your old habits. It’s important to be patient and think about the positive outcomes, like getting your blood sugar lower and possibly putting diabetes into remission.”

Isn’t it a pleasant thought that you might just put diabetes into remission? Get out there and exercise, give up the sugars and carbohydrates, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Get addicted to natural sugars versus sugars you find in sodas, cookies, cakes, and candies. Do what you need to do and get angry about your type 2 diabetes diagnosis.