Research by Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University has proven that Type 2 Diabetes is reversible.

It is estimated that diabetes costs the NHS £10 billion a year, while almost one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs is for diabetes treatment. Once thought to be an incurable, lifelong condition, Professor Roy Taylor's findings have proven that it can be reversed, and have since been incorporated by the NHS who are currently running a pilot to help effectively treat patients with Type 2 diabetes and significantly reduce costs.

Professor Roy Taylor is Director of Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre and one of the world’s leading experts on Type 2 diabetes. His research has been pivotal in identifying the causes of Type 2 diabetes and showing how weight loss can reverse the condition. More recently, further research has been able to show that remission from Type 2 diabetes is also possible for those with lower BMIs. Below, we look back over the developments in Type 2 diabetes research.

Reversing Type 2 diabetes

Professor Roy Taylor discovered that Type 2 diabetes is caused by excess fat within the liver and pancreas. This happens when people reach their Personal Fat Threshold. Fat is normally stored under the skin but when the Personal Fat Threshold is reached, fat must find elsewhere in the body to go. Initially, this ends up being stored in the liver and then overspills to the rest of the body, including the pancreas. In the liver, this fat causes a poor response to insulin and it produces too much glucose. In the pancreas, the fat switches off the genes which direct how insulin should effectively be produced, and this causes Type 2 diabetes.

With this knowledge, it was found that Type 2 diabetes could be reversed by placing those diagnosed with the condition on a low-calorie diet. This decreases the fat levels in both the liver and pancreas, re-starts the normal production of insulin and reverses Type 2 diabetes. To achieve this, 15 kg of weight loss is required.

A research trial, DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial), was originally carried out to discover whether this knowledge could be used for routine treatment of the condition. A quarter of participants achieved a 15 kg or more weight loss, and of these, almost 9 out of 10 people put their Type 2 diabetes into remission. The study also found that almost half of those were still off all their Type 2 diabetes medication with normal blood glucose levels after one year. After two years, more than one third of the group had been free of diabetes and off all diabetes medication for at least two years.

A further study with a subset of DiRECT participants was able to show that if remission is achieved, the insulin-producing capacity of the pancreas can be restored to levels similar to those who had never been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This disproved the assumption that insulin-producing cells are damaged forever in people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

NHS pilot study

Following the success of the DiRECT trial, Professor Roy Taylor’s findings were incorporated into a three year NHS England pilot in 2020. During the pilot up to 5,000 patients will be enrolled onto a life-changing weight-loss programme. Patients will be provided with low-calorie total diet replacement products for three months, alongside support to increase their exercise levels. This will result in the desired weight loss of over 15 kg if followed fully. After the 12 week weight loss period, patients are then offered managed plans for reintroducing ordinary, nutritious food, with ongoing support from clinicians and coaches after that.

Type 2 diabetes with a lower BMI

Obesity is known to increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. However, 10% of people living with Type 2 diabetes have a BMI considered in the healthy range.

The latest findings by Professor Roy Taylor and his team have now shown that remission from Type 2 diabetes is possible even for people with lower BMIs.

20 people with Type 2 diabetes and a BMI at or just below the healthy range (BMI below 27) were enrolled onto the Diabetes UK-funded Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes upon Normalisation of Energy Intake in the Non-obese (ReTUNE). They were also placed on a low-calorie diet programme. However, the period of the low-calorie diet was for 2-4 weeks, rather than 3 months, and the period of weight loss maintenance for reintroducing normal foods was 4-6 weeks. This cycle of weight loss and maintenance was repeated up to three times, until participants lost between 10 and 15% of their bodyweight.

After each cycle, the research team measured the amount of fat in the participants’ pancreas and liver and looked to see who how remission was produced. 50% of participants went into Type 2 remission after the first weight loss cycle. Overall, 70% went into remission through diet-induced weight loss, despite not living with obesity or overweight.

The study confirms for the first time that people with Type 2 diabetes and lower BMIs can be supported to put their Type 2 into remission through a structured low-calorie diet programme, and that the key to this is losing harmful fat from the liver and pancreas.

‘Your Simple Guide to Reversing Type 2 Diabetes’

Professor Roy Taylor has published a book ‘Your Simple Guide to Reversing Type 2 Diabetes’ which provides a useful guide for those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes to understand their condition and guidance on how to incorporate the weight loss programme. Proceeds from the book sales are donated by Professor Roy Taylor to Diabetes UK. The book has been endorsed by celebrities who have benefitted from the programme themselves. Hairy Biker Dave Myers said, “‘When I met Roy in 2012, I had Type 2 diabetes – and he showed me another way. Now my blood sugars are normal and my diabetes is a thing of the past.”

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