Newcastle Study: 600 Calorie Diet

The Newcastle Study is also known as the 600 calorie diet
The Newcastle Study is also known as the 600 calorie diet

Extreme low-calorie diets, such as the 600 calorie diet studied by Newcastle University have been hailed as extremely effective in helping people with diabetes to control their blood glucose levels.

In some instances, reports of temporary diabetes cures have been reported from following an extreme low-calorie diet for a short period.

Is this the 600 calorie diet that was in the news?

A Newcastle University study, funded by Diabetes UK, examined 11 people with diabetes who slashed their food intake to 600 calories per day for 8 weeks.

Three months later, 7 of the 11 people studied were free of diabetes.

As with other very low calorie diets, you should consult a doctor before undertaking such a diet.

What was involved in the diet used in the study?

The diet was predominantly based around:

  • Optifast meal replacement sachets, which provided 75% of the calories (600 cals)
  • The other 200 calories came from non-starchy vegetables.

Note: The diet is referred to as the 600 calorie diet (rather than the 800 calorie diet) due to the meal replacement aspect of the diet totalling 600 calories.

How does an extreme low-calorie diet affect the body?

An extreme low-calorie diet (usually based on diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables) reportedly prompts the body to expel fat clogging the pancreas, helping people with type 2 diabetes to ‘wake up’ their insulin producing cells.


The Newcastle Diet is a very low calorie diet which was used as part of a clinical study by Newcastle University. Very low calorie diets should only be started with the approval and support from your doctor.

The diet gained a lot of media attention when the results were published in June 2011. The study, funded by charity Diabetes UK involved 11 participants with type 2 diabetes who were medically supervised throughout.

3 months after the study was completed, 7 of the participants were deemed, by the researchers, as being free from diabetes.

The diet was based upon 3 sachets of Optifast meal replacement shakes a day - accounting for 600 calories per day. In addition, participants ate 250g of non-starchy vegetables a day, adding a further 200 calories per day. Participants drank water or calorie-free beverages.

People in the study were on the diet for 8 weeks. After the diet, participants returned to a normal diet taking on board advice on healthy eating and portion size.

The researchers believe the diet’s success is linked with loss of fatty tissue from around the liver and pancreas. The study’s participants were given MRI scans which showed that the level of fat from around these organs had decreased from elevated to normal levels over the course of the study.

Being a very low calorie diet, it is important to gain approval and supervision from your doctor before starting the diet. Note that some people may be advised by their doctor against going onto the diet on grounds of health.

So low-calorie diets bring blood glucose levels down?

In the aforementioned study, people with diabetes who did not get the special diet were also assessed.

After one week, those on the extreme low-calorie diet had pre-breakfast blood glucose levels close to normal. This was in line with decreasing fat levels in the pancreas.

So the study cured people of type 2 diabetes?

The study showed marked improvements in blood sugar levels to the extent where the participants appeared to be cured.

However, as is the case with pre-diabetes, those participants who benefitted the most from the study will still need to be disciplined with their diet and exercise to prevent or delay the return of diabetes symptoms.

Were there any side effects of the diet?

A number of side effects were observed in participants during the first few days of the diet, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Tiredness
  • Cold

People involved in the study were advised to keep up their fluid intake and wrap up to keep warm.

Does Diabetes UK agree with the findings of the extreme low-calorie diabetes diet study?

The director of research at Diabetes UK, Iain Frame, claimed that people should not embark on this type of extreme diet without the help and approval of a dietitian or doctor.

He was reported in the news as saying: "We welcome the results of this research because it shows that type 2 diabetes can be reversed, on a par with successful surgery without the side effects. However, this diet is not an easy fix and Diabetes UK strongly recommends that such a drastic diet should only be undertaken under medical supervision.

Despite it being a very small trial, we look forward to future results, particularly to see whether the reversal remains long term.”

Your Comments
I am a type 2 diabetic and been taking metformin for a while now. At a recent review I was told my levels had risen significantly and that I should really go on to insulin. I opted to put it off so I could think about the impact. At the time I had read about the Newcastle study and asked the doctor if he would support me in attempting it. He response was that its effects long term were unknown and that I should stick to a healthy balanced diet. Over Christmas I maintained a reasonably good diet but noted that my sugars were still rising (16 - 18 mmol before breakfast) and I was getting other symptoms. I decided, without my doctors support, to do the diet. 3 days in and my pre-breakfast levels are (12-13mmol) and starting to feel more human.I am obviously getting my calories through food which is very hard. Any suggestions on what a typical days menu could look like? Is there anyone else had problems with the doctor and doing t alone?Chris
Posted by Chris, UK, East Sussex on Thursday, January 03, 2013
Ammonite I know exactly what you mean, I have been Diabetic for eight years , I am 61 years old and every time that I see a doctor I am given different advice, as to the weight loss, It feels as though I am just going around in circles! This has now resulted in a Diabetic burn out, I have lost any motivation I had at the begining and I am becoming more and more depressed over the weight which instead of going down is going up.
Posted by misditsy, merseyside on Friday, November 09, 2012
I was discharged from hospital in Australia 12 months ago with Type 2 Diabetes. My glucose levels were 16-24.0 so no doubt of the diagnosis. I found the research work of Dr Roy Taylor (who I correspond with) and began the 600 calorie a day diet. My weight went from 92kg to 70kg. In addition, I began a high level swimming and exercise program, including swimming 2km a day. My primary diet was 3 Optifast + 1 raw vegan meal of spinach, tomato, avocado and asparagus etc. My blood sugar levels became normal within weeks and I have never taken medication. I am now eating regularly (I'm vegetarian) and with a degree of circumspection. I don't eat any sugar. My blood tests indicate normal A1c levels and a recent OGTT was also indicative or normal glucose tolerance. I would suggest that the "Newcastle diet" is an outstanding and natural means of normalising a diabetic metabolism, with long term benefits. Of course, I avoid the bad habits which lead to my diagnosis in the first place. I don't eat anything with refined sugar and avoid junk foods of all kinds.
Posted by Stephen W, Australia on Monday, November 05, 2012
Diagnosed Jan '11 as Type 2, watched my diet, and by June this year HbA1c was down to 6.7%. Now, I have an advantage over a lot of people because I was a vegetarian for 4 years in the '90's, so the Newcastle diet was pretty much 'business as usual' for me. My version was as follows: 1 30g scoop Holland & Barrett Soya Protein Isolate + 1 30g scoop of Tesco Ultra Slim as a shake with 300ml unsweetened Soya Drink (Chocolate or Strawberry, delicious!) @ 3 times a day. Meal consisting of as much Cabbage, Spring Greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, carrots, peas, etc as you think you can manage, with a veggie stock cube, and any other herbs or (low-calorie) flavourings you fancy. @ 2 per day. Unlimited raw carrots, tomatoes. Coffee with Sweetener and unsweetened Soya Drink. This comes to well over the 800 calories, but this is what I knew I could stick to, and last week I was told my HbA1c was now 5.5%, and that officially I AM NO LONGER DIABETIC!! Of course, I will still have to watch my diet, probably for the rest of my life, but I think it's worth it.
Posted by Mike D, Worcestershire on Saturday, November 03, 2012
Type 2 diabetics since 1996. Fasting blood sugar 9.4 in July 2012 whilst taking maximum metformin and gliclazide, told would shortly need to go onto insulin. After changing to a vegan diet my last fasting blood was 5.8 (September 2012). All daily readings are within the normal range and my medication has been reduced. Hopefully at my next fasting blood test at the beginning of December my medication will be further reduced.In addition, whilst eating more food I am losing weight (7lbs per month). PS. Have also given up on all white flour products.
Posted by Geoffrey, Lincolnshire on Tuesday, October 16, 2012
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. HbA1c fraction 7.7% in Oct 2010. I went on a 6300kJ /day diet and lost 30kg., 105 kg. to 75 kg..My HbA1fraction is as follows 03/11 5.8%, 10/11 5.8%,04/12 and finally 08/12 5.4%. I no longer take statin or metformin and my blood pressure is 110/65. I have never heard of thr Newcastle diet before but what happened to me seems to bear out the fact that losing weight seems to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. I am 65. Hope this helps.
Posted by John Driscoll, Scarborough Qld. Australia on Tuesday, September 04, 2012
can you please suggest that where this newcastle diet is available in india/madurai
Posted by padma ramanathan, madurai india on Saturday, August 18, 2012
Why can I not get anyone to tell me what I should and should not eat? I am a type 2, using injected insulin, and my bloods are anywhere between 9 and 32. A hospital stay where everything was closely monitored did not help in explaining the diversity in levels, and all my GP would say is to "eat a normal healthy diet", but he would not tell me what that was!!!! I was apparently born diabetis, but not diagnosed until 6 years ago, and am in my 70s. Overweight all my life, dieting has never helped me lose weight, and I am sick of being made to feel guilty because I am fat!!!!! Why is there no consistency in advice; I have now been put on a starvation diet, and after 5 days I have put on 2 pounds!!!!!!!
Posted by ammonite, devon on Thursday, August 09, 2012
Recently, I was told by my GP that my sugar level was too high and so was my cholesterol level was also but I am struggling to reduce my sugar and cholesterol levels. Does any one know what I can do as the next step for me will be insulin and I don't really want to go down that road just yet.
Posted by jackie gardner, Doncaster on Thursday, June 07, 2012
Just commenced on Galvus met 50/1000 but am so sad because of the digestive upset. However, I prefer to stick to it than take insulin injections. How do I lower the digestive side effects?
Posted by nkem on Friday, June 01, 2012
Hi, I was diagnosed about 2/3 years ago with type two diabetes at aged 40 ish. I started on 1 metformin a day but after my first HbA1c test I was put on 3 a day and have been on that ever since. Recently though I noticed my sugars were starting to sneak up. I tried to bring them down but found it hard to control, always seemed to be around 8/9 or more no matter what I ate, fasting tests were settling around 8. This worried me so I thought I'd go see a chinese herbalist I'd used for various things ten years ago. Been using him now for about 3 months and has been very effective, bloods are settling around 6/7 in the mornings. After meal sugars mostly the same after 2 hours. I'm due a HbA1c test again soon so will be interesting to see the result. I have been eating normally to get a better like for like figure. Still been taking metformin but will look to reduce dosage soon. Also some time in the future I'm going to look into stem cell surgery in Germany. Looks promising. Joe
Posted by joseph trzeja, Essex on Friday, June 01, 2012
I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 2.5 years ago. When I read about the Newcastle study I wanted to try it so I went to my GP and he was not any help at all in undertaking the VLC diet, so I told him I was going to go on the Cambridge diet for 8 weeks as this was the closest I could find. I completed the 8 weeks diet and lost in excess of 5 stone in that period from 23st 9lbs down to 17st 10lbs. My blood sugar went back to normal after only 2 weeks and stayed there for the duration of the diet and for the next 5 months, no matter what I ate. However, I got complacent and put weight back on and now weigh in at 20st. My blood sugar levels have gone back up to levels that require me to take Metformin to compensate for bad eating. However, I am now losing weight in a more controlled manner and controlling my diet and exercising regularly. My blood sugar is becoming more and more normal with the more weight loss and exercise. I hope to stop taking the Metformin in the next few weeks and I believe as long as I keep exercising and watch what I eat regularly, I will be able to stay off the medication and even eat sugary treats from time to time, but not too often as that’s how the weight went back on.
Posted by kitbag, London on Thursday, May 31, 2012
I'm type one since 1990, Dr Richard K Bernstein's work on low carb solutions is well worth reading.
Posted by expectsuccess, UK on Sunday, May 20, 2012
Hi Sandrainc, I am really interested in your diet. Have you got any recipes?
Posted by ayhan atay, Sheffield on Thursday, March 22, 2012
Contrary to what sandrainc says, the Newcastle clinical trials used meal replacements with 2.9g of saturated fat per 100g of powder so about 1.5g per "meal". I don't know what a "heavy carbohydrate" is, but 34.2g per 100g of powder are sugars and the ingredients list in order of weight is Skimmed Milk Powder, Milk Proteins, Fibre (Inulin), Fructose, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Vegetable Oils. The clinical trial was about the effect of rapid and significant weight loss, to mimic the effect of bariatric surgery. It wasn't proposing a way of eating.
Posted by PhilT, United Kingdom on Friday, March 09, 2012
I'm 63 and been diagnosed with diabetes for about 12 years. I took Metformin, Januvia and Glimepride (I think this is like gliclazide). I was inspired by the Newcastle University study but was concerned about the advice to do this under medical supervision. I therefore designed my own programme which was less drastic. I ate a high fibre cerial with semi-skimed milk for breakfast followed by a visit to the gym to burn off 800 calories. I had a high protein, low carb drink for lunch and a low carb regular evening meal. I also went on a long country walk once or twice a week. In 3 months I've lost 26 pounds and my average sugar level has come down from 9 to 6. I have been able to cut out the glimepiride on the days I visit the gym and only take a half dose on the other days. I feel and look much better. I've still got further to go. But this is a great start.
Posted by John, Lancashire, England on Sunday, March 04, 2012
This diet cuts out saturated fats of all kinds and all heavy carbohydrates. (Even olive oil has saturated fat in it), meat/poultry and fish contains saturated fats and the body needs a break from these "bad fats" to allow the body to detox the "bad fats" clogging up the cells. Eating too much heavy carbs has been known to turn into "bad fat" if a person is not active. Thats why I think no heavy carbs are allowed to make sure no bad fat blocks the cells. According to this study it should take about 8 weeks for the "bad fats" blocking the cells to detox from the body. Understanding what healthy is, is the key. Eating like a pig and exercising like a tortoise will bring back diabetes. Diabetes type 2 is caused by bad diet overeating, eating too late at night and lack of exercise... etc However the cells are blocked with "bad fats"...too much heavy carbs or too much saturated fats, the type 2 diabetic needs to give the body a break from these foods or continue to take medication for the rest of their lives? Dr Gabriel Cousens puts his diabetic clients on a 7 day raw vegetable juice fast when they go to his tree of life program in USA. What is achieved in 8 weeks with Newcastle diet is achieved in 30 days with Gabriel Cousens. He also recommends eating 1kg of raw vegetables per day in juicing, smoothies etc. The body uses these live enzymes to repair itself. A meal replacement approach such as the Newcastle diet is the easiest way to get results for diabetics living in cold climates such as the UK. Last night I made a shake by juicing 2 cucumbers, fresh ginger, 1 lemon and then blended the extracted juice with 2 scoops of a meal replacement powder...delicious!
Posted by sandrainc, Essex on Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Being overweight and being Type 2 diabetic and touching 24 stone through taking insulin and not being able to excercise very well due to back problems and ashthma - I realised I had to do something quickly as my weight was increasing daily and I could no longer walk more than ten steps without discomfort. With the consent of my GP I went on to the Lighterlife diet and after just one week lost 12 lbs. Halfway through my second week and already another 6lbs lighter I had a slight kidney problem with what I think was a developing stone problem so I was told to stop using this diet. Not only did I lose weight but my sugar levels were down to between 4.5 - 7.2. I then started to eat but have cut out all carbs with the exception of maybe 2 slices of bread and two potatoes a week and am on a 1000 calorie per day diet with the help of the hospital dietician. I have yet to be weighed again but the good news is that my sugar readings are all still within normal range bearing in mind that when I was taking insulin Humalog 50/50 I was 42 units in the morning and 32 in the evening and on normal food intake my readings were always over 8.0. I still take my insulin but it is down to 10 units in the morning and 10 in the evening. If my weight continues to decrease, my hospital consultant says there is a good change of coming off of insulin altogether - and possibly in time coming off of my Gliclazide also. Leaving off carbs in my opinion is a must. It's definitely life changing!!!
Posted by lennie keet, Iver, Bucks on Monday, January 30, 2012
I spoke to my surgery about the diet last August and received no help from them at all. I cut down to 600 calories, cereal or toast for breakfast, salad for lunch and a cooked meal in the evening, Most days having enough calories for a yoghurt or piece of fruit, and suffered no ill effects. Counted my calories very carefully and did this for 5 weeks. 3 months after coming off the diet I had an HbA1C done and my sugar levels were the same off Metformin as they had been on at 7.2%. Have now been off Metformin for a further 7 weeks and I have been doing fasting bloods which are coming out at 6.4 to 6.7, and 2 hours after meals bloods are 7.2 to 7.8. I'm hopeful that my next HbA1C will be lower than the 7.2. I believe that the 5 weeks at 600 calories really did help, but if the surgery had assisted and I had done the "right" diet I could possibly be "cured". It is my intention later, if necessary, to do the 600 calories based on 2 meal replacements and non starchy vegs with or without NHS help.
Posted by Steve Shaw, Paignton on Thursday, January 26, 2012
After reading this report I changed my diet totally. I thought you couldn't do anything about type 2 diabetes. 5 months later, 3 stone lighter off, 2 high blood pressure tablets off, amaril off, statin down to 10mg from 40mg, metformin down from 500mg 4x daily to 500mg 2x daily. Never felt better. Doing an iron man triathlon in 3 months.
Posted by stephen urwin, newcastle upon tyne on Thursday, January 26, 2012
I was diagnosed with diabetes over one year ago, 65 years old. I mentioned the diet, 800 calories to my diabetes nurse, but you get no encouragement from them at all, maybe best wait till there is more proof that this works.
Posted by dusty101, county durham on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
My husband had diabetes for over a year before we heard about his diet. He also had lost his job, was feeling extremely down about his situation and his confidence was rock bottom! We decided that it was a risk he was willing to take, and to support him and lose some weight myself, we started the diet! We followed it strictly, used the ready made slimfast shakes and only vegetables for the 6 wks. It is now 6 months on. We are still dieting to lose weight, but eating normal foods again. His blood sugar is always in normal range and he is like a new man! This diet has brought my husband back to me, and also made us both feel a lot healthier and better about ourselves. I really don't know what else could've achieved this! His doctors are astonished and very intrigued to know more. Surely the medical profession should be taking this further, sooner rather than later, as it could help many people to get their lives back!
Posted by Emma Mason, Doncaster on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I was Paul, until I began low carbing (Dr Bernstein). Have lost two stone so far, and am losing still. Have taken up weight training which helps - aerobic exercise = uselss for me! I would suspect the 600 cal diet will help, but only as a method of reducing sugar levels for a time. Constant monitoring is vital, particularly if this is going to be hailed as the new cure - we don't want people thinking that, after it, they can go back to an unhealthy lifestyle - particularly those who were already very healthy (not me) but still got type 2.
Posted by LadyBlack, Thatcham on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The low calorie diet in question is the Cambridge weight plan !
Posted by Kizzy, N.Ire on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I'm in the second week of the diet, type 2 Diabetic about 3 years post diagnosis. When I read about the diet I approached my GP who, understandably had not heard of it. Lucky enough to have private medical insurance through work, I visited a consultant endocrinologist who was very scathing about the diet, but after I emailed the professor who led the study at Newcastle and told him this, he agreed to support me through the 8 week period. I did have to purchase the Optifast shakes myself, but my bloods have been within normal range for two weeks. This diet is tough, but after it you return to a normal healthy way of living. I'll update you in 6 weeks!
Posted by Ken Ward, United Kingdom on Thursday, January 12, 2012
It would be great if the detailed diet could be shared. Why is it under wraps? Why is everyone so sceptical? It reminds me of how the medical fraternity poohoo'd the discovery that stomach ulcers were not caused by excess acid but by a bacteria called Helicobacter Pilori. The Ozzie doctor who worked this out was ostracised by the medical community for many years until he infected himself and then took his own medicine and cured himself. Read the History section here in wikipedia under Helicobacter Pylori.So let's get our skates on and run a large scale trial. I am happy to throw my name in for a trial. I am convinced we can find a few thousand type 2'ers who would sign up in a flash.
Posted by Ryk, Reading on Thursday, December 29, 2011
My wonderful hubby has had such a bad time... He lost his job, lost his house of 25 yrs, lost his dear mum, then, to pile it on, got told three months ago he has type 2 diabetes. My husband is a right foodie, has chronic depression and a severe spinal condition that limits his mobility. I'm an ex St John's first aid trainer, so know what he should and shouldn't be eating, but it's not easy. I need definitive proof that a diet such as this could mean a cure or even partial cure for the one I dote on. It breaks my heart to have to tell him he can't have his fave foods any more, can someone please put more time and effort into researching this "cure" so people like my husband all over the country can get back in control of their lives. I know the diet will be life long, but, taking away the other horrible effects diabetes has on ones body would be such a blessing. Not to mention the money the NHS would save in the long term, what with all the added health conditions that will crop up. Surely it's madness not to thoroughly investigate this diet.
Posted by sacriston wolf, Co. Durham on Friday, December 02, 2011
Do diabetes UK have any scientific evidence for the statement: "Diabetes UK strongly recommends that such a drastic diet should only be undertaken under medical supervision". If there is no good evidence for this statement, then it is harmful to diabetics nationwide. Many doctors will still not recommend this and will go down the "treatment" route, thus condemning the patient in many cases to a life of ill-health. We need to get the message out that diabetes can be cured.
Posted by Mark122, Bournemouth on Sunday, October 30, 2011
I would love for this to be a permanent fix but reality is no one can live like that for the rest of their lives and infect that is what it will take. A severely restricted carb die long.
Posted by Willow, Sweden on Thursday, October 27, 2011
I'm taking metformin 850mg 3 times a day plus gliclazide and vildagliptin and inegy and I'm putting on weight. Anyone in the same situation.
Posted by paul james, chippenham on Thursday, October 27, 2011
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