Simple changes to diet could put Type 2 diabetes into remission for patients

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Type 2 diabetes is a condition that can stick with patients for their entire lives. Despite this serious impact on blood sugar, researchers say people can effectively treat diabetes, and even reverse it in some cases, by making dietary changes. That’s the new finding by a team from the University of British Columbia.

Study authors report that people can effectively control their type 2 diabetes through carefully planned dietary adjustments. The research team also stresses the importance of local pharmacists during this process, who should carefully monitor medication usage and dosages while patients are dieting.

This project tracked a group of type 2 diabetes patients as they adhered to a 12-week diet program managed by their local pharmacists. Each study participant stuck to a low calorie, low carbohydrate, higher protein meal plan, and had to check in with their pharmacists regularly regarding medication use.

“Type 2 diabetes can be treated, and sometimes reversed, with dietary interventions,” says study co-author Dr. Jonathan Little, an associate professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, in a media release. “However, we needed a strategy to help people implement these interventions while keeping an eye on their medication changes.”

Eating right can get you off medications faster

While it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea to consult a doctor, study authors focused on pharmacists specifically because they are generally more accessible than physicians. Type 2 diabetes patients usually see and consult with their pharmacists much more often than their doctors, especially in rural regions.

“Community pharmacists have expertise in medication management and can serve an important role in overall diabetes care,” Dr. Little adds. “When Type 2 diabetes patients follow a very low-carbohydrate or low-calorie diet, there is a need to reduce or eliminate glucose-lowering medications. Community pharmacists are ideally positioned to safely and effectively deliver interventions targeted at reducing diabetes medications while promoting Type 2 diabetes remission.”

Researchers separated the participants into two groups. One followed the new diet plan and a control group didn’t change their usual eating habits. By the time three months had passed, more than one-third of those in the diet group had stopped taking all diabetes medications. This didn’t happen for any patients in the control group. The diet group also enjoyed notable improvements in average body weight, glucose control, systolic blood pressure, and general health.

In summation, the research team believes the key to dieting success against type 2 diabetes is a “targeted nutritional approach, supervised by a community pharmacist who can monitor prescribed medications.”

“The intervention was effective in reducing the need for glucose-lowering medications for many in our study,” study co-author Dr. Alan Batterham, professor in the School of Health and Life Sciences at Teesside University, concludes. “This indicates that community pharmacists are a viable and innovative option for implementing short-term nutritional interventions for people with Type 2 diabetes, particularly when medication management is a safety concern.”

The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.