People who achieve weight loss of 10 per cent or more in the first five years after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have the greatest chance of seeing their disease go into remission, says a study.
The findings, published in the journal Diabetic Medicine, suggest that it is possible to recover from the disease without intensive lifestyle interventions or extreme calorie restrictions.
"We've known for some time now that it's possible to send diabetes into remission using fairly drastic measures such as intensive weight loss programmes and extreme calorie restriction," said study researcher Hajira Dambha-Miller from the University of Cambridge.
"These interventions can be very challenging to individuals and difficult to achieve. But, our results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least five years, with a more modest weight loss of 10 per cent," Dambha-Miller said.
Type 2 diabetes affects 400 million people worldwide and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputations.
While the disease can be managed through a combination of positive lifestyle changes and medication, it is also possible for the high blood glucose levels that define diabetes to return to normal - through significant calorie restriction and weight loss.
An intensive low-calorie diet involving a total daily intake of 700 calories for eight weeks has been associated with remission in almost nine out of ten people with recently diagnosed diabetes and in half of the people with longstanding disease.
For the findings, the research team studied data from the ADDITION-Cambridge trial, a prospective cohort study of 867 people with newly diagnosed diabetes aged 40 and 69 years recruited from general practices in the eastern region.
The researchers found that 257 participants were in remission at five-year follow-up.
People who achieved weight loss of 10 per cent or more within the first five years after diagnosis were more than twice as likely to go into remission compared to people who maintained the same weight.
In order to clarify the best way to help patients with type 2 diabetes achieve sustained weight loss, the team is currently undertaking a study called GLoW (Glucose Lowering through Weight management).