Although the official view is still that type 2 diabetes is progressive and incurable, there is solid scientific evidence that the disease can be completely reversed in a large number of cases. In fact, we’ve known for decades that bariatric surgery can reverse type 2 diabetes, and surgery is increasingly offered as an option for morbidly obese type 2 diabetes patients. However, surgery is an extreme solution. Studies show that dietary intervention can be equally effective without the risks associated with weight-loss surgery.
Diet and diabetes reversal
The most compelling scientific studies to date were conducted by the University of Newcastle in the UK. In three separate studies, researchers found that severely restricting calories for eight weeks could reverse type 2 diabetes in anywhere from 40% to nearly 80% of diabetics, depending on the duration of the disease.
The evidence suggests that roughly half of those who have had diabetes for up to six years can expect to reverse the disease. For those who have been diabetic less than four years the success rate is even higher, while the likelihood of success decreases for those who have had the disease 8-10 years or more. However, successful reversal has been achieved in people who have had diabetes for as long as 23 years.
Calorie restriction reverses diabetes
Although a very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet too shows promise for reversing type 2 diabetes, it has a lower success rate than the type of diet used in the Newcastle studies and takes considerably longer to achieve results. The most effective diet by far is the Newcastle-style very-low-calorie-diet or VLCD.
The Newcastle studies used a very low calorie diet of 600-800 calories per day, based on meal-replacement shakes supplemented with non-starchy vegetables. Participants followed this restricted diet for eight weeks, then spent two weeks transitioning back to everyday eating. After transitioning back to normal-calorie eating, they were advised to eat roughly 2/3 the calories that they had been eating pre-diet, in accordance with their actual energy needs.
The same type of diet can be achieved without the use of meal-replacement shakes, through a calorie-restricted real-food diet. Programs such as the DWD Lifestyle Blueprint, in fact, do just this. Both approaches appear to be equally effective; the important thing is that calorie intake is kept at or below 800 calories per day for the full eight weeks.