Last Updated on May 10, 2023 by Jamie
Type-2 diabetes is a chronic condition that is characterized by high blood sugar levels and affects millions of people worldwide. For years, people have been searching for ways to reverse or “cure” this disease. But can type-2 diabetes really go into remission? In this article, we’ll explore the concept of diabetes remission, the factors that contribute to achieving it, and the scientific evidence supporting its possibility.
What is Type-2 Diabetes Remission?
Understanding what type-2 diabetes is fundamental before delving into the concept of remission. Type-2 diabetes transpires when the body either becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t produce enough of it, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to severe health complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss.
Type-2 diabetes remission is a state where blood sugar levels are consistently within the normal range without the need for diabetes medications. It’s crucial to understand that remission does not equate to a “cure” for diabetes. Instead, it’s a state where the condition is under control and well-managed.
Remission of type-2 diabetes can be classified into three categories:
- Partial remission is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but below the diabetic threshold for at least one year without the use of diabetes medications.
- Complete remission is when blood sugar levels are within the normal range for at least one year without the use of diabetes medications.
- Prolonged remission is when complete remission lasts for at least five years.
Factors Contributing to Type-2 Diabetes Remission
There are several factors that can contribute to the achievement of type-2 diabetes remission. These include weight loss, diet changes, exercise, medication adjustments, and bariatric surgery.
Weight loss is one of the main factors that can lead to type-2 diabetes remission. Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, increases insulin resistance, making it more challenging for the body to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
In the landmark Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), it was found that participants who lost substantial weight through a low-calorie diet had a higher likelihood of achieving remission. According to this study, 46% of participants who followed a low-calorie diet achieved remission after one year, in comparison to only 4% in the control group.
Changes in diet can also contribute to diabetes remission. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care discovered that participants who followed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in blood sugar levels and reduced their need for insulin.
Another study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes found that participants who followed a plant-based diet experienced improvements in insulin sensitivity, glycemic control, and cardiovascular risk factors.
Regular physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, which may lead to diabetes remission. A study published in the journal Diabetologia found that participants who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
In some cases
, adjusting diabetes medications may contribute to remission. A study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism found that the use of a medication called liraglutide, in combination with lifestyle changes, led to a higher rate of remission in participants with type-2 diabetes.
Bariatric surgery, a surgical procedure that changes the digestive system to induce weight loss, has been shown to be effective in achieving type-2 diabetes remission in some cases. The most common bariatric surgeries include gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and adjustable gastric banding.
A meta-analysis published in JAMA Surgery found that 62% of patients with type-2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery experienced remission after two years. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 75% of patients with type-2 diabetes who underwent gastric bypass surgery achieved remission within one year.
Long-Term Remission and Relapse
While achieving type-2 diabetes remission is possible, it’s important to note that relapse can occur. Factors that may contribute to relapse include weight regain, a return to unhealthy eating habits, or a decrease in physical activity.
A study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that among participants who achieved remission in the DiRECT trial, 29% experienced a relapse within two years. However, the study also found that those who maintained significant weight loss had a lower risk of relapse.
To minimize the risk of relapse and maintain long-term remission, it’s crucial to continue following a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and weight management.
Challenges and Controversies
There are several challenges and controversies surrounding the concept of type-2 diabetes remission. One significant challenge is the lack of a standardized definition for remission, making it difficult to compare results across different studies.
Furthermore, some experts argue that the term “remission” may give false hope to individuals with diabetes, leading them to believe that they no longer need to manage their condition. It’s essential to remember that even if someone achieves remission, they must continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent relapse and complications.
Type-2 diabetes remission is achievable for some individuals through significant weight loss, dietary changes, exercise, medication adjustments, or bariatric surgery. However, it’s crucial to understand that remission is not a “cure” and that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is necessary to prevent relapse and complications.
It’s important for individuals with type-2 diabetes to work closely with their healthcare team to determine the best course of action for their unique situation. By making lifestyle changes and working with healthcare professionals, it may be possible to achieve and maintain type-2 diabetes remission.