New lifestyle programme shows possibility of reversal of type 2 diabetes

New lifestyle programme shows possibility of reversal of type 2 diabetes

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has seen a sharp rise during the last decade, with 425 million people worldwide suffering from the disease, largely due to lifestyle choices, which includes unhealthy eating habits.

While lifestyle interventions, including nutrition, exercise and stress relief, are seen as possible solutions to stop this trend and reverse diabetes, studies backing up this belief are rare.

In a study published today in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health journal, scientists at the Louis Bolk Institute in the Netherlands have investigated a new six-month pilot programme providing intensive counselling on nutrition and lifestyle, a digital coaching and education platform, physician-guided medication management and cooking classes.

Developed by the Dutch Foundation ‘Voeding Leeft’ (Nutrition Alive), the programme ‘Reverse Diabetes2 Now’ aims to explain the cause and underlying physiology of type 2 diabetes and pays specific attention to developing knowledge on diabetes and nutrition, managing stress, mental obstacles and exercise routines. Participants as well as their partners were encouraged to support each other, and share their experiences, as a way to increase effectiveness.  Participants also received instant biometric feedback, by routinely measuring their blood glucose levels after meals, and by regularly measuring their waist circumference. Reverse Diabetes2 Now adopts a different approach focusing on lifelong lifestyle changes, including unprocessed, fresh foods and no restriction on calories. Guidance is provided for six months by a support team, including a dietician, a personal coach and a nurse who works in collaboration with the patient’s GP.

Out of the 72 participants who completed the study, results showed that:

  • At the beginning of the study, 65 of the 72 participants (90%) used glucose lowering medication. After 6 months, 35 of the 72 participants (49%) used less medication of whom 9 participants (13%) ceased all glucose lowering medication and 11 participants (15%) were able to come off insulin.
  • There was a significant drop in HbA1C levels, with 64% of participants above 53mmol/mol at the start, dropping to 40% of participants above 53mmol/mol after six months.
  • After 6 months, participants felt less fatigued, had higher levels of concentration, were more motivated to be physically active, and also experienced fewer sleeping problems.
  • Body weight, waist circumference and BMI were lower after six months.
  • A larger scale follow-up study to this pilot study is now well underway.

Lead author Dr Gerda Pot from the Louis Bolk Institute and King’s College London said: “Treating the underlying causes of a lifestyle disease like type 2 diabetes in a sustainable lifestyle change sounds logical but not many studies use this approach. This pilot study of a lifestyle intervention program is a good step in the direction of providing evidence how type 2 diabetes can be cured with lifestyle interventions and healthy nutrition.” 

Health insurance company VGZ compared data of participants of Reverse Diabetes2 Now with a benchmark group of patients who received regular diabetes care and found that there was a significant decline in claimed medical expenses, in line with the results of the pilot group mentioned above.

Hospitals in India and China are now looking to pilot the ‘Reverse Diabetes2 Now’ programme (www.reversediabetes2now.com), where this is a growing problem. The first pilot is expected to start this autumn.