Can a Low Calorie Diet Cure Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes sufferer taking an insulin

People who are suffering from Type 2 diabetes could find that by eating an ultra low calorie diet, their condition can be cured. Research carried out at Newcastle University by Professor Roy Taylor  has seen that by staying on the extreme low calorie diet for eight weeks, the body kick starts its own natural production of insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to break down glucose in the blood.  Normally, the amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach. When food is digested and enters the bloodstream, insulin helps move any glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it is broken down to produce energy. In people with diabetes, the body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there is either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or because the insulin that is there does not work properly.

It is thought that if insulin cells are exposed to fat they cease to work and if the fat around them is removed they are active again. In effect, the cells in the pancreas have gone dormant and although they are still there they are asleep. By eating a low fat diet and experiencing a fast weight loss, the fat in the pancreas is also reduced and the insulin producing cells come back to life. Type 2 diabetes occurs typically during middle age and is a result of poor diet, obesity or an unhealthy lifestyle. Type 1 is genetic.

Type 2 can cause blindness, strokes, heart attacks and even the loss of limbs. In the trial 11 participants drank a meal replacement milk shake containing 150 calories three times a day. They were also allowed to eat a selection of vegetable such as cucumber, broccoli, cabbage and peppers. After only one week their blood sugars were tested and found to have returned to normal and the fat levels in their pancreas were also reduced. This research has been found to be consistent with other studies that explored the relationship between fat in the liver and pancreas and insulin production. This, however is the first time that by inducing a dramatic drop in weight and fat in these organs, the insulin production has been shown to switch itself back on.

Professor Taylor commented that it may be possible not to have to go to the extremes of a low calorie diet as they may be able to devise a medicine that blocks the fat from the insulin cells and allows normal functioning of the pancreas. Patients in his clinical trial had only 600 calories a day, the average calorie intake for a man is around 3000 and 2500 for women. He warns however that people with Type 2 diabetes should not embark on a strict weight loss programme by themselves, but to seek medical supervision. This is still good news for the 2.5 million sufferers of this type of diabetes in the UK.