Many people ask can I reverse my diabetes with diet.
From a diagnostic standpoint, once you have type 2 diabetes you have it. But from a physiological standpoint many people can and do reverse their diabetes.
‘Diabetes remission’ and ‘diabetes reversal/ reversed’ are two common interchangeable terms used in scientific research.
Being ‘well-controlled’ is another term that’s frequently used by dietitians and doctors. Although it is similar, being ‘well-controlled' can have a slightly different meaning to having diabetes that’s in ‘remission' or ‘reversed.'
For instance, ‘remission' and ‘reversed' would most commonly indicate that a person has achieved and is maintaining normal blood glucose and is off all/most medications, achieving these outcomes predominantly through diet and lifestyle changes.
While being well-controlled may indicate that a person uses a combination of diet, lifestyle and various diabetes medications as a way to achieve healthier blood glucose levels.
The role of diet
What we know is that the way you eat plays a critical role in helping with “reversal” of diabetes.
Dietary change alone can lead to better A1c outcomes than prescribing common medications like Metformin.
Dietary change helps reduce risk of diabetes complications and improves other health biomarkers such as weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
In the past couple of years, research has shown there are 2 dietary methods that are getting the best outcomes:
1. A very low calorie diet
Professor Roy Taylor from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, has now conducted a number of studies that show a very low calorie diet, under 800 calories a day, leads to diabetes reversal. You should not attempt to follow a very low calorie diet without guidance from your doctor.
While very low cal can be effective in the short term, living on a very low calorie diet is not a proven strategy long term.
As you can imagine, calorie restriction produces:
- Can lead to nutritional deficiency
- Inability to socialize
- And places lifelong demand on willpower
There is another approach that is more sustainable long term…
2. A low-carbohydrate diet
Here at DMP we encourage people with type 2 diabetes to follow a low carb diet.
Using a low carb diet for the treatment of type 2 diabetes is the key topic of my PhD (which I'm currently in the process of completing). I've been researching and working in this area for many years now and our team knows from experience that this way of eating helps people get results, and maintain them – read our member testimonials and stories.
To demonstrate what the research on low carb eating shows, view the chart below.
These results are from several systematic reviews with meta-analysis (the strongest form of research) where they compared all the randomized controlled trials conducted in people with type 2 diabetes against each other.
You can see that compared to other approaches, people with type 2 diabetes who follow a low carb diet achieve:
- better HbA1c
- improved cholesterol levels
- reduced blood pressure
- reduce their medications
In real life, we've seen people lower their HbA1c much more than 0.5% – many reducing their levels from 8% or 9% back to normal. We've also seen them reduce or eliminate medications, just as the research shows.
If they can do it, so can you!
A low carb eating plan is easy to follow and very flexible too, so overall we've found its the best long-term strategy.
That's really how you have to think about it – as a life-long healthy eating plan, not just a “diet.”
Focus on eating whole foods lower in carbs like fresh vegetables, lower carb fruits, dairy products, meat, poultry, nuts and seeds, small amounts of beans and legumes, olive oil, olives, avocados and more.
For more help and support, you might consider joining us as a member.
*Article updated September 3rd 2020.