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Medical charity Diabetes UK funds landmark trial into the effects of weight loss on Type 2 diabetes conducted by researchers at Newcastle University

Written by Editorial Team, Donr

Published on Thursday, 2nd August 2018

Just under half the participants in the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) put their Type 2 diabetes into remission after 12 months.

Researchers at Newcastle University, led by Professor Roy Taylor, have been exploring how weight loss can put Type 2 diabetes into remission. Published in medical journal ‘Cell Metabolism,’ the research suggests that, for remission to be possible, insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas need to recover and begin producing the right amount of insulin again.

The researchers at the university measured levels of fat in the liver and pancreas, as well as conducting other metabolic tests, and looked for differences between those whose diabetes went into remission (‘responders’) and those whose condition did not (‘non-responders’). 

The research found that, while both groups had lost a similar amount of weight – 16.2kg for responders and 13.4 kg for non-responders – the responders had lived with Type 2 diabetes for slightly less time. 

The researchers claim that their findings add evidence to the theory that the shedding of fat from the liver and pancreas is a vital component of putting Type 2 diabetes into remission – previous research supported by Diabetes UK has shown that while beta cells lose their ability to function normally when affected by Type 2 diabetes, they can recover if high levels of internal fat are removed.

However, the research also suggests that remission is only possible if the beta cells involved have the capacity to be ‘rebooted.’ Researchers are still unsure why these cells are more likely to recover in some people than in others, or how to identify those whose condition is most likely to go into remission. 

DiRECT is jointly led by Professor Taylor of Newcastle University and Professor Mike Lean of the University of Glasgow. It involves a low-calorie diet, the reintroduction of healthy food, and long-term support to maintain weight loss, to attempt to determine if a new weight management approach can put Type 2 diabetes into long-term remission.

Diabetes UK has committed over £2.8 million to the ongoing programme.

‘DiRECT has already provided evidence to suggest that some people can put their Type 2 diabetes into remission, but we didn’t yet know why,’ commented Dr Elizbeth Robertson, Director of Research at the charity.

‘This latest study builds on these promising findings and helps us understand how weight loss can help some people to kick-start their insulin production again.

‘DiRECT has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people and we’re looking forward to the second-year results as the trial continues, but we’re still waiting for all of the evidence so it’s very important that anyone with Type 2 diabetes considering a low-calorie diet speaks to their diabetes healthcare professional first.’