BY Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha
For centuries, diabetes was considered an incurable condition that developed because the body did not have sufficient insulin to absorb the sugar and sugar containing food consumed by an individual.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas; and when it stops producing that hormone for whatever reason, it was reasoned that the body could not process ingested food. Gradually, one’s body would metabolise its muscular structure to keep itself alive.
The status quo continued until 1921 when Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered how to synthesise insulin. The developed drug could be injected into diabetic patients whose average lifespan before this life changing discovery was only four years or so after developing the condition.
Artificial insulin, as well as subsequently developed medications, can now help diabetic patients to metabolise the calories they consume for energy and growth.
Although these medications have changed the outlook for diabetics from a rapidly fatal wasting disease to one that allows them to enjoy a normal lifespan if managed properly, diabetes continues to remain a permanently progressive disease. Diabetics have had to learn to live with a debilitating condition that could not be cured.
But this scenario is changing, thanks to new research.
One such groundbreaking study being conducted in the UK – DIRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial) – commenced in early 2017 and will regularly monitor 280 patients being studied over several years.
This study’s findings could radically change the way we treat Type 2 diabetes.
We now know that for many patients, the condition can be reversed – or at least pushed into long-term remission – with low calorie diets that induce sustained weight loss of about 15 kilogrammes.
However, many of us have not yet realised that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed. Currently, our objective in treating the
condition is to reduce blood sugar levels and minimise the damage caused to the heart, kidneys, eyes and other vital organs.
Despite millions of diabetic patients taking tablets and/or injections to control their blood sugar levels, many still develop complications. Life expectancy in diabetics remains about six years less than for those who are free of the disease.
As the number of people developing diabetes increases so does the cost of managing it – not only for the patients themselves but also governments that have to fund the related costs of healthcare. Meanwhile, drug companies earn millions from medicating diabetics!
Recent research has consistently demonstrated that weight loss of around 15 kilogrammes often produces total remission of Type 2 diabetes and provides extended life expectancy, in addition to a strong sense of personal achievement and empowerment.
Prof. Roy Taylor of Newcastle University (who has spent almost four decades studying the condition) explains how surplus calories in the diet leads to superfluous liver fat. This causes the organ to respond poorly to insulin and release too much glucose into the bloodstream.
Excess fat is deposited in the pancreas too, causing its insulin producing cells to fail. Eliminating fat from the pancreas through controlling one’s dietary intake can restart the normal production of insulin and reverse Type 2 diabetes. This reversal of the condition remains possible for at least 10 years after the onset of diabetes.
Many diabetics believe that they face an inevitable decline into heavier medication and further ill health because of diabetes. But we now know that achieving and maintaining weight loss can reverse Type 2 diabetes, as well as keep it in remission.