Can diet and exercise cure diabetes? According to one study, yes. A new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that individuals may be able to reverse their Type 2 diabetes by practicing better habits related to diet and exercise. Although the news should give hope to the 26 million Americans suffering from diabetes, the CDC researchers noted that complete remission is quite rare.
During the study, obese patients completed one year of counseling sessions encouraging them to exercise more and eat a healthier, more calorie-conscious diet. After this year had passed, 11.5% of the participants experienced at least a partial reversal in their condition, and their blood sugar levels returned to a prediabetic state without the assistance of medication. Only 2% of the obese adults achieved the same without counseling.
Within four years, 7% of individuals who received counseling were still at their prediabetic blood sugar levels. However, some individuals were able to achieve full remission, defined as having completely normal blood sugar levels. This was true of 1.3% of individuals in the group that received counseling, and 0.1% of individuals that didn’t receive counseling at all.
Complete Remission is Rare but Possible
The medical community typically views Type 2 diabetes as a condition that can be managed and treated, but not cured. However, some recent studies indicate that Type 2 diabetes may be curable with extreme measures such as weight-loss surgery, or a diet that has the individual eating similarly to a person who has undergone weight-loss surgery. The new CDC study indicates that partial or even complete remission is rare, but possible, without extreme measures.
According to Harvard Medical School professor of medicine Dr. Pieter Cohen, the difference between “complete” and “partial” Type 2 diabetes remission shouldn’t be a focus for diabetes sufferers. Instead, patients should focus on obtaining a healthier weight and achieving more stability in their blood sugar levels. Even if remission isn’t achieved, making healthier exercise and dietary decisions will lead to an improved quality of life for diabetes patients, and potentially a longer life as well.
Counseling and Goals Make the Difference
A total of 4,500 adults were included in the CDC study. All of the participants were obese, had Type 2 diabetes, and ranged in age from 45 to 76. The average participant had already been diagnosed with diabetes for five years. The participants were studied for a total of four years.
The participants were divided into two groups, with the first group receiving extensive counseling that included one session per week for six months, followed by one session every other week for the next 3.5 years. The first group also received specific goals to meet for physical activity and weight loss.
The second group of participants were only asked to attend three counseling sessions every year, with no specific goals to keep in mind throughout the process.
In the group that received very little counseling, participants lost only 0.7% of their weight over the course of the first year. Those in the counseling group fared far better, losing 8.6% of their body weight. Weight-loss rates leveled off slightly after four years, with body weight reductions of 4.7% and 0.8% for the counseling and non-counseling groups, respectively.
Overall, the subjects most likely to experience remission as a result of their efforts were those with a recent diabetes diagnosis, lower initial blood sugar levels, better fitness or more successful weight-loss results.
Can Diet and Exercise Cure Diabetes? – The Bottom Line
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a study finding that it’s possible, though extremely rare, to completely reverse Type 2 diabetes using healthy dieting and exercise. In the study, participants were far more likely to improve their conditions if they received regular counseling, including defined goals for weight-loss and physical activity. The best way to prevent diabetes is early detection, according to the researchers.
The full text of the study is available online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.