A low-energy formula diet followed for 12 weeks leads to greater weight loss, insulin reduction and HbA1c improvement in insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes compared to gold-standard NHS care, according to new research.
The study, conducted at Imperial College, London, used data from 20 people with type 2 diabetes to draw its conclusions. The participants were divided into one of two groups: one group followed a low-energy formula diet (808-836kcal/day) diet, the other followed NHS gold-standard care (600kcal deficit diet – 1,400kcal/day for women, 1,900kcal/day for men).
The low-energy formula group lost substantially more weight than the NHS group. They also lowered their insulin dosage. In the low-calorie group, HbA1c levels went down by an average of 11.3mmol/mol, compared to 7mmol/mol in the NHS group.
“This is a very interesting study that builds on existing research, looking at the role a low-calorie diet can play in the management of type 2 diabetes,” said Anna Morris, Interim Director or Research at Diabetes UK. “Importantly, the researchers are focusing specifically on the effects of a low-calorie diet in those with type 2 diabetes who are already taking insulin.
“This study is being presented at our Diabetes Professional Conference this week, and we look forward to learning more about the results once they have been published in a scientific journal. As always, for those with type 2 diabetes who are taking insulin and considering making any major dietary changes, please speak to a healthcare professional, as you will need support to adjust your insulin doses.”
Very Low-calorie diets have been proven to have significant short-term benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, such as those described in this study; however, the study did not review long-term outcomes.
Participants on the low-energy diet were taking in much fewer calories than the gold-standard group so it is not surprising that they experience lower insulin doses and a significantly reduced HbA1c. How the participants in each group fared once they stopped after 12 weeks is a key question but further research will be needed to answer this.
The study was part-funded by Cambridge Weight Pla, which also provided the low-energy formula diet products.

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