Low calorie means high rewards for people with type 2 diabetes

Today’s Low Calorie Diet programme announcement brings great news and opportunity for those living with type 2 diabetes.

Gone are the days where people thought it would last for life and that the condition could only get worse. People felt trapped in type 2 diabetes – and helpless, but not anymore.

We are certain that type 2 diabetes can, for some, be returned to normal sugar control with no need for medication.

The new NHS Low Calorie Diet programme gives a great chance of achieving this for people who have had type 2 diabetes for less than six years.

Losing the label of type 2 diabetes is very important to many folk. Not having to go for blood tests every few months is a relief. Not having to take tablets is a big bonus.

I led one of the trials on which the new programme is based and the commonest comment I heard from those taking part is: “I feel 10 years younger!”.

Evading type 2 diabetes is BIG. We now know a lot about how and why this can happen.

All the ideas came together in 2008. They were put together in the Twin Cycle Hypothesis. That might sound complicated – but it isn’t. The simple thought was that type 2 diabetes was caused by a person having more fat inside their body than they could deal with. The fat gradually built up inside the liver and pancreas and would prevent normal control of sugar levels. The fat was simply gumming up the works, and if it was removed it should be possible to get back to normal sugar control.

A ‘hypothesis’ is simply an idea that can be tested – so we tested it. And, in 2011, we were able to tell the world that type 2 diabetes was a reversible condition. More than that, we proved just how the fat was causing the trouble. This was reported in papers and on television, and many people with type 2 diabetes contacted me to find out how they could do the same. All the details were put onto a website. A huge rush of emails from people who tried this showed that people who were really determined could do this by themselves at home! Now, anyone who wants to understand more about the whole business can read much more about it in the book ‘Life Without Diabetes’ (by me, Roy Taylor).

Since those early days, we have gone on to show that type 2 diabetes stays away long term provided that weight does not increase too much. Then we went on to do a major trial to test whether nurses or dietitians in general practice could get the same good results as the experts who pioneered the programme. They could! That led NHS England and NHS Improvement to plan the Low Calorie Diet programme to allow many people to benefit.

So, what is the programme? First it involves making a choice, either putting up with the challenges of type 2 diabetes or deciding to try to avoid them. For those people who choose the latter, the programme focusses on decreasing body weight. Unlike any other weight loss programme, most people on the original trial achieved the weight loss. People who took part said that it was challenging but nowhere near as difficult as they thought it was going to be.

The NHS Low Calorie Diet programme importantly provides personal support throughout the diet itself – mainly soups and shakes – the gradual return to eating more normally and in maintaining the weight loss. So, I know that even more people will reap rewards from taking part.

The large scale pilot of 5,000 people is a major advancement in type 2 diabetes and I look forward to the results.

Roy Taylor is Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University and Consultant at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust. He founded the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre in 2006 to develop innovative research techniques, and by 2011 he was able to show that excess fat within liver and pancreas caused type 2 diabetes.

The low calorie liquid diet was developed as a research tool to show what was causing high sugar levels, but it proved so successful that he then tested it as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. He has written many scientific papers as well as an easy-read book about life without diabetes.

Professor Taylor also developed the system now used throughout the United Kingdom for screening for diabetic eye disease, with major reduction in blindness due to diabetes across the UK.