Can a Low-Calorie Diet Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

While anecdotal evidence has suggested that significant weight loss can reverse Type 2 diabetes, the hard science was lacking — until now. A new study demonstrates that a restricted calorie diet plan can, indeed, mitigate diabetes symptoms.

Researchers at Newcastle University and Glasgow University aimed to build on a pilot study that suggested extreme calorie restriction and resulting weight loss might reverse Type 2 diabetes.

To that end, researchers recruited 298 people for the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) and divided them into two groups: one that would receive the standard care given to all people living with Type 2 diabetes, and one that would receive an additional weight reduction diet plan.

In some cases, it can be dangerous for diabetics to attempt to manage their diagnosis through diet, as there has been very little independent, peer-reviewed evidence that sustainable remission can be achieved in this manner — until this study, that is.

The weight management program offered to half of the test group entailed a low calorie but nutritionally complete plan of health drinks and soups. This limited participants to 825-853 calories per day for a period of between three and five months.

The researchers then helped the participants gradually reintroduce foods back into their diet and up their calorie intake to a relatively normal level, while cultivating healthier weight management strategies like exercise — all under close medical supervision.


Around 46 percent of patients who started the trial went into remission a year later, meaning that their bodies’ glucose sensitivity had returned to a near-normal state. Of that group, 86 percent who lost 15kg or more saw their Type 2 diabetes enter remission.

Given that the best existing treatments yield a four percent remission rate, this regimen offers a much higher success rate — and suggests that the key to reversal may be in losing a substantial amount of weight.

An overview of Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetic condition, representing over 90 percent of sufferers. This form of diabetes is characterized by an inability to properly utilize simple sugars. The resulting glucose build-up can create several significant — and, if left untreated, debilitating — health problems.

Despite this risk, early symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can be easy to miss. They include excessive thirst, frequent urination, increased appetite and tiredness that does not seem to be dependent on a person’s sleep cycle. Other symptoms can include a sudden loss of muscle mass and resulting weakness.

Many of these factors tend to coincide with climbing or unhealthy weight, and there is a significant overlap with obesity. Due to the fact that diabetes can make weight management difficult and exercise challenging, these symptoms can lead to reduced mobility and loss of limb function.

Will this study change the way we treat type 2 diabetes?

Of course, not everyone who has Type 2 diabetes will experience drastic health problems. Many effective health strategies exist, and it is quite possible to lead a full life with the condition.

Nevertheless, this research illustrates that tackling Type 2 diabetes early and aggressively may be the best approach for stopping it in its tracks — or even sending people into remission.

Lead researcher Roy Taylor explained:

Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function. What we’re seeing from DiRECT is that losing weight isn’t just linked to better management of Type 2 diabetes: significant weight loss could actually result in lasting remission.

As with any study, there several important limitations to this research. For one thing, everyone in the weight management study was white. We can’t safely assume therefore that this effect will translate to other ethnic groups, and researchers will need to explore this as the trial continues.

Another caveat is that we don’t yet know whether this remission effect is sustainable. While the initial outlook from the trial appears positive, this treatment option may not yield long-term changes for participants and how they approach food and weight management.

Nevertheless, this study offers hope that we are closer to developing a sustainable solution for reversing Type 2 diabetes — and that’s quite exciting.


hELEN hEARFIELD4 months ago


Greta L
Alice L5 months ago

thank you

Peggy B
Peggy B6 months ago


Justin M
Justin M7 months ago


JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris7 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga7 months ago


Sue H
Sue H7 months ago

Helpful information but I'd like to see follow up done.

Chrissie R
Chrissie R9 months ago

I would like to see this study replicated, peer reviewed, and approved.

Ruth S
Ruth S9 months ago


Marie W
Marie W10 months ago