Diabetes, diet and obesity

Obese woman Obesity is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes

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I will never forget my visit to a coffin factory in Mississippi. Sales of over-size caskets were rising fast - no wonder in the US's fattest state. Some of the coffins were three feet (1m) wide - on the inside.

I heard dire warnings from doctors about obesity-related health problems, especially Type 2 diabetes. One warned me that if the upward trend in diabetes continued, it would eventually bankrupt the state health budget.

But the problem was not confined to the US. The dramatic increase in obesity-related Type 2 diabetes is one of the most serious global health problems.

In the UK, 2.5 million people have Type 2 diabetes, which can cause long-term damage to many parts of the body and shorten life.

Cardiovascular disease, blindness and amputation are among the serious complications associated with the condition.


Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood - either because of insufficient insulin production in the pancreas - or cells becoming insulin-resistant.

Start Quote

The participants were highly motivated and dedicated. ”

End Quote Dr Ee Lin Lim Newcastle University

Drastic weight loss and stomach surgery have both been shown capable of reversing the condition. A healthy lifestyle is especially important for managing the condition.

Low calorie

A new study, in the journal Diabetologia, has shown that an extreme low calorie diet can rapidly reverse Type 2 diabetes. Eleven people with diabetes followed an eight week diet of 600 calories a day.

The study, led by a team at Newcastle University, showed that after just one week of drastic dieting, the pre-breakfast blood sugar levels of all 11 participants had returned to normal.


MRI scans revealed that fat levels in the pancreas fell, normalising insulin production.

The Newcastle team said their research showed the disease did not need to be a life sentence.

The study was small - just 11 participants. After 18 months, four of them were still free of diabetes. Much bigger and longer studies would be needed to see how useful this technique could be.

As with other research, the bigger the number of participants, the more robust the findings. I am also unsure how many people could stick to a 600 calories a day diet.

Dr Ee Lin Lim, one of the authors of the study paid tribute to those who took part: "The participants were highly motivated and dedicated. They also had very supportive families".

Diabetes UK which funded the research said such a drastic diet was not "an easy fix" and should only be undertaken with medical supervision.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I was diagnosed in 2004 and spent a few years in the NHS wilderness of carbs with every meal, increasing meds and rollercoaster HbA1c. Found online support and started testing (with prescription strips) and eating to my meter and developed "my carb managed diet" in 3 months. Result = no HbA1c over 5.9 for nearly 3 years AND reduced meds. Downside I am told to only test 1/2 times week now :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    When doctors tell T2 diabetics they "don't need to test" they are denying them the means to easily control the condition. On top of this scandalous attitude the dietary advice handed out to newly diagnosed people, which advises them to base their meals around starchy carbs, is such that they have no hope of achieving decent control. "Healthy" breakfast cereals and porridge raise BGs

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I am highly motivated and have brought my sugar levels down from an average of 11 down to 6 in just 3 months. I have done this by testing my levels before and one hour after each meal plus morning and night tests. I modify my diet according to what my meter tells me. I uses 8 test strips a day to achieve this. My Doc now tells me i only need to test once a day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    One of the most wanted items for anyone diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is testing strips so we can keep check of what we are eating is correct and right. But many Doctor surgeries and NHS have a local policy of not issuing test meters and strips based on cost only, I used to buy mine on ebay, but not now as I retired and cost itself stopped my testing.



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