• Dr Michael Mosley believes you can reverse type 2 diabetes. Here’s how. (SBS)Source: SBS
Trusted journalist and weight loss expert Dr Michael Mosley returns to SBS screens in October with a new message of hope for Australians with type 2 diabetes.
By
Yasmin Noone

20 Sep 2021 - 2:43 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2021 - 6:45 PM

--- The new landmark series Australia's Health Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley premieres Wednesday 13 October at 7.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #AusHealthRevolution ---

 

If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, you may have been told that although you can do your best to manage the disease, you’ll never get rid of it.

While the experts generally agree there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, renowned science journalist Dr Michael Mosley returns to SBS screens in October with a new message of hope.

“I am passionate about spreading the message that type 2 diabetes is a preventable and even reversible disease,” Dr Mosley tells SBS. “This is because, in 2012, I was diagnosed with it.

“Rather than go on medication, I lost nine kilograms by putting myself on an intermittent fasting diet and my blood sugars returned to normal, without medication.”

“I am passionate about spreading the message that type 2 diabetes is a preventable and even reversible disease."

In a landmark SBS series – Australia’s Health Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley – the journalist demonstrates his belief that type 2 diabetes can be reversed with diet.

During the three-part documentary, Dr Mosley puts his body on the line to make a point about the disease and joins eight Australians who all attempt to reverse their type 2 diabetes. Guided by medical professionals, the participants embark on a low-calorie diet, with the goal of reducing the fat in their liver and pancreas. The evidence-based approach aims to allow the beta cells of the pancreas to regenerate and for blood glucose levels to improve. 

“In many cases, though not all, improving your diet and losing a few centimetres around the waist can make a big difference,” he says. “To truly reverse type 2 diabetes you will have to commit to losing around 10 per cent of your body weight. And the sooner you get on with it, the better.”

Comment: Michael Mosley on how type 2 diabetes can be reversed
Type 2 diabetes used to be seen as an incurable condition that only got worse over time. A promising study suggests otherwise.

The facts

Dr Mosley’s evidence-based inspiration for type 2 diabetes reversal is linked to a number of studies, led by Professor Roy Taylor from the UK’s Newcastle University.

A 2019 study, published in The Lancet, Diabetes & Endocrinology, shows that some individuals are able to achieve glycaemic normalisation with the help of dietary and lifestyle changes, and without medication.

The research demonstrates that 46 per cent of participants with type 2 diabetes achieved remission at 12 months, and 36 per cent at 24 months, mediated by weight loss. Put simply, the longer the person with type 2 diabetes took to lose the weight after diagnosis, the harder it was for the disease to be pushed into remission.

“Everyone will have a different set of genetic and lifestyle factors at play. It also depends on how long they've been living with the condition for and if they've developed any diabetes-related complications.”

Late that same year, Prof Taylor led another study published in Cell Metabolism revealing why type 2 diabetes remission may occur. It suggests that if a person with type 2 diabetes loses a significant amount of weight and keeps it off, there’s a strong chance their shrunken and damaged pancreas could return to normal.

“In addition, there are a number of studies on people who have had weight loss surgery,” Dr Mosley says. “These show that 16 years later, most of the participants who kept the weight off had reversed their type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Mosley explains that he fully accepts that type 2 diabetes may return if the people put the weight back on after they’ve lost it. The excess weight could clog up your pancreas with fat and you could be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes again. But, he says, that doesn’t mean remission with weight loss (and weight maintenance thereafter) isn’t possible.

“I think the main thing [people who have received a new diagnosis for type 2 diabetes] should understand is that if they are significantly overweight – particularly if they have a large waist – then it is likely that they have a lot of visceral fat. This can clog up the liver and pancreas, and cause damage [prompting the type 2 diabetes to return].”

This free box of food is being medically prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes
“We've all heard of the term ‘let food be thy medicine'. This study is living proof of that saying.”

There's always hope

Although Dr Mosley is adamant that type 2 diabetes can be reversed with diet, not every medical professional is convinced. The other side of this discussion states that even if blood sugar levels do return to a normal range with the help of diet, the disease never really disappears. Type 2 diabetes reversal critics believe it can only really be managed with diet and lifestyle changes.

Accredited Practising Dietitian, Karissa Deutrom, sits somewhere in the middle of the debate about reversal. Although she agrees that it’s possible for a percentage of people with type 2 diabetes to go into remission, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone.

“There have been a number of cases documented, where people have successfully, ‘reversed’ type 2 diabetes,” Deutrom says. “But I don’t believe we currently have enough data to say ‘yes: every individual with type 2 diabetes can reverse it’.

“Everyone will have a different set of genetic and lifestyle factors at play. It also depends on how long they've been living with the condition for and if they've developed any diabetes-related complications.”

“No matter what point you are in your journey as you live with diabetes, you need to know that there is always hope.”

So where does that leave an individual with type 2 diabetes, who wants to try to improve their diet and give reversing, or at least better manage, their condition a go?

Deutrom says patients should first recruit a care team around them, comprised of a GP, endocrinologist, accredited practising dietitian, and diabetes educator. Together, the team can provide you with support to help you work towards your diabetes goal – no matter what that is.

“We want to encourage everybody to put their hands on the wheel of their diabetes self-management.

“No matter what point you are in your journey as you live with diabetes, you need to know that there is always hope.”

 

This story contains general information only. Consult your doctor or medical professional for advice that is suited to your circumstances. If you need assistance with your diet or for dietary advice, always consult a GP, endocrinologist, diabetes educator or Accredited Practising Dietitian. 

 

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @yasmin_noone.


 

Watch the series trailer.

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