Low calorie diets to treat obesity and Type 2 diabetes

The NHS is delivering a new programme which provides a low calorie diet treatment for people who are overweight and living with Type 2 diabetes.

The programme is based on two large studies which showed that, as a result of this treatment, people living with Type 2 diabetes who were overweight could improve their diabetes control, reduce diabetes-related medication and even achieve remission (no longer have diabetes).

The NHS and its partners Public Health England and Diabetes UK are now testing different models of providing the treatment and associated support when made more widely available on the NHS.

The new programme will initially be offered to up to 5,000 people in selected areas across England.

How it works

Eligible participants will be offered low calorie, total diet replacement products including soups and shakes consisting of up to 900 calories a day for up to 12 weeks. During this time participants will be expected to replace all normal meals with these products.

Alongside this, participants will receive support for 12 months including help to re-introduce food after the initial 12-week period. Depending on where the service is being delivered, this will either be:

  • group* based
  • one-to-one*, or
  • digitally/remotely via an app, online or over the phone.

This support will provide participants with the help and advice they need throughout every stage of the programme.

Participants will also be closely supported by their local GP practice – for example if medicines need to be changed.

*Delivered online while social distancing guidelines are in place

Who is eligible

The NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme is currently available in parts of the following areas across England:

  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
  • Humber Coast and Vale
  • Greater Manchester
  • North East London
  • North Central London
  • Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes
  • Derbyshire
  • Birmingham and Solihull
  • Gloucestershire
  • Frimley

Individuals must:

  • be aged 18 – 65 years,
  • have a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes within the last 6 years, and
  • have a BMI over 27 kg/m2 (or over 25 kg/m2 in people of Black, Asian or minority ethnic origin)

Individuals must also meet other eligibility criteria to be referred to the service.

The studies

The Diabetes UK-funded ‘DiRECT’ trial saw almost half of those who went on a low calorie diet achieve remission of their Type 2 diabetes after one year. A quarter of participants achieved a 15kg or more weight loss, and of these, 86% put their Type 2 diabetes into remission.

A more recent trial of low calorie diets, called ‘DROPLET’, has demonstrated similar weight loss in people who were obese.

The NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme is based on these two studies. Providers and pilot sites were appointed following an open tender.

Get in touch

For more information about the NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme: