Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
Reversing diabetes is a term that usually refers to significantly reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.
In doing so, it may be possible to reduce dependency on diabetes medication. Some people may be able to get their blood sugar levels down to normal levels without the use of any diabetes medications; this is referred to as remission from diabetes.
With time and dedication, type 2 diabetes can be reversed and the results can be very rewarding with less tiredness and better all-round health.
Loss of body weight can be particularly beneficial in helping to reverse the progression of diabetes.
If you think you need to come off your diabetes medication, ensure you speak to your healthcare team before doing so.
Understanding how diabetes progresses
The most common cause of type 2 diabetes is obesity related, which generally follows a vicious cycle pattern:
- Diet high in refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, whilst low in fibre, essential vitamins and minerals.
- Insulin levels in the bloodstream increase to cope with the high and quick acting carb intake.
- Weight is put on around the belly (central or truncal obesity).
- Consistently high insulin levels and weight gain lead to the body’s cells becoming resistant to insulin.
- High insulin levels also help to increase weight gain.
- Insulin resistance leads to an increase in sugar levels, particularly after meals.
- The pancreas produces more insulin to cope with rising blood sugar levels.
- High sugar levels lead to feelings of lethargy and high insulin levels lead to feelings of hunger.
- Hunger often leads to overeating and lethargy to less activity being taken.
- Overeating, less activity and high insulin levels all lead to further weight gain and more insulin resistance.
- Consistently high demand on the pancreas to produce extra insulin leads to damage to the pancreas’ insulin producing beta cells.
- Beta cell damage leads to the body struggling to produce enough insulin, and steeper rises in blood sugar levels leads to the symptoms of diabetes, such as thirst and a frequent need to urinate, becoming more recognisable.
Breaking the progressive cycle of type 2 diabetes
To reverse diabetes you need to be able to break the above cycle by taking the strain off your insulin producing cells.
Research indicates that effective ways to reverse diabetes include:
Reversal of diabetes refers to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been viewed as a condition which gets progressively worse over time. In more recent years, there has been more evidence showing that people can reduce the severity of diabetes to halt and even reverse its progression.
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body struggling to respond to its own insulin. As a result, the body needs to produce more insulin to bring down glucose levels.
Research from the Joslin Diabetes Centre states that if the body struggles to keep blood glucose levels steady, the cells which produce insulin will begin to lose their ability to produce insulin. If too many insulin producing cells lose their ability to function, insulin will need to be injected to keep blood glucose levels stable.
Researchers have been able to show that diabetes can be reversed by Bariatric surgery resulting in significant weight loss and very low calorie diets.
These methods have enabled a significant number of study participants with type 2 diabetes to come off diabetic medication. Researchers have hypothesised that the improvement in blood glucose control, as a result of weight loss, may be related to a loss of fat from around organs such as the liver and pancreas.
If you are obese, you may qualify for weight loss surgery. If weight loss surgery is not an option, your doctor may help you to commence a very low calorie diet.
Very low calorie diets are regarded as extreme diets and these should not be undertaken without the support of your health team.
Very low-calorie diets
Very-low-calorie diets (VLCD) are currently being investigated to see how successful they are at achieving a reversal of diabetes.
VLCDs have been shown to achieve significant weight loss, reduce insulin resistance and allow people to come off their diabetes medication.
In 2011, a study was published by researchers at Newcastle University showing that an 8-week 800 kcal per day diet was able to achieve remission from diabetes in 7 of the 11 participants that took part. The diet included around 600 kcal from meal shakes and around a further 200 kcal from non-starchy vegetables. 
The trial used MRI scans and showed that the reversal of diabetes appeared to be correlated with significant reductions in fat storage within the liver and pancreas.
Currently, Newcastle University are running a study involving 32 participants. The participants were put on a similar diet for a similar length of time and then followed a low calorie weight maintenance diet.
The participants will be reviewed for at least two years to see how many of the participants can maintain diabetes remission over this period.
Initial results show that after 6 months after completing the initial diet, 40% of participants had achieved and maintained remission.
A VLCD is regarded as an extreme form of diet and therefore should be undertaken with care. If you are interested in following a VLCD, it is important that you speak with your doctor first to ensure the diet will be safe for you to follow.
In addition to the results seen in clinical trials, a number of anecdotal reports from patients show VLCDs to be successful at reversing diabetes to varying degrees. Read more on the low calorie diet forum.
VLCDs and reversal of diabetes in the news:
- Mar 2016: Very low calorie diet can reverse type 2 diabetes for six months
- Aug 2013: Case of type 2 diabetes reversed in 11 days through Newcastle Diet
- Jun 2011: Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by eating 600 calories a day
Low calorie success stories from the forum:
There are many success stories in the forum:
Low carbohydrate diets
Low carbohydrate diets are known to result in lower levels of insulin needing to be produced by the body and can therefore result in reduced insulin resistance. 
A study published in 2014 by the Second University of Naples showed that a low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet was able to achieve significant rates of remission in people with type 2 diabetes.
The study showed that after 1 year of following the diet, 15% of participants achieved remission and after 6 years, 5% had achieved remission.
In this study, the effects of a low-fat diet were also recorded. After 1 year, 4% of participants on a low-fat diet had achieved remission and after 6 years, 0% of participants had achieved remission.
Dr David Unwin, a UK GP, has run studies that have demonstrated reversal of diabetes in a number of his patients after following a reduced carbohydrate diet.
Low carbohydrate diets and remission in the news:
- Apr 2016: Young man from Edinburgh reverses type 2 diabetes with LCHF diet
- Apr 2014: Low carb Mediterranean diet outperforms low fat diet over 8 year study
Low carb success stories from the forum:
Read other people's success stories and see how others have managed to reverse their type 2 diabetes:
- Down from 9.9 to 6.7 in 10 weeks
- Type 2 and normal HbA1c with just diet/exercise
- Down from 23.5 to 5.9 in 8 weeks
- Latest HBA1C - stunned!
- After 9+yrs of Metformin no more meds!
- Lower carb diet and Fatty Liver Gone
- Hba1c down from 86(12.3) to 38(5.6) in 3 months diet and exercise only and the love of this forum
Commitment to exercise has allowed a number of people to successfully reverse their type 2 diabetes.
Exercise helps the body to become more sensitive to its insulin. In combination with a healthy diet, exercise can reduce the demand for insulin in the body and can therefore help towards reversing diabetes.
There is a phrase that says you can’t outrun a bad diet and there is a lot of truth in this. The people that have used exercise to reverse their diabetes have done so with exercise in combination with healthy eating.
There have been a number of anecdotal accounts showing exercise to be linked with diabetes remission.
A study published in 2015 showed that 67% of participants were able to achieve partial remission of their type 2 diabetes after 6 months of taking part in a diet and exercise program. The participants in this study were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
- Mar 2014: Pensioner sends type 2 diabetes into remission with 12-minute workouts
- Mar 2014: Cyclist puts type 2 diabetes into reverse following 7 stone weight loss
Bariatric surgery shows the most significant evidence for being able to reverse type 2 diabetes into remission. Gastric bypass surgery, in particular has led to very impressive remission rates.
A 2010 study showed that 3 years after gastric bypass surgery, 72% of participants with type 2 diabetes had achieved remission. 
A 2013 study showed that 6 years after gastric bypass surgery, 24% of participants with type 2 has achieved remission. 
Gastric bypass surgery delivers the most impressive long term remission rates but carries risk of complications during or following surgery. It is a permanent procedure and necessitates a change to how you eat meals.
During gastric band surgery, the stomach is made much smaller and so following the surgery, only small meals can be eaten at a sitting and nutritional supplements will need to be taken for the rest of one’s life.
Bariatric surgery and remission in the news:
- Mar 2016: Weight loss surgery more effective than lifestyle intervention in type 2 diabetes
- Oct 2015: Type of weight loss surgery affects chances of type 2 diabetes remission
Is it possible to reverse type 1 diabetes?
At the moment type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed. Type 1 diabetes is an anti-immune disease and therefore to reverse the disease would be to find a way to prevent the body’s immune system attacking its own insulin producing cells.
Research is currently being undertaken to find a type 1 diabetes vaccine which could help to do this.