EATING a low-calorie diet for just four months can cure Type 2 diabetes, it was revealed yesterday.
People who slashed the calories they ate each day had a far more significant improvement in the condition and in their general health than medication offered.
They no longer needed life- saving insulin, the level of dangerous fat built up around their hearts was significantly reduced and their cardiac function improved.
“It is striking to see how a relatively simple intervention of a very low-calorie diet effectively cures Type 2 diabetes,” said the lead author of the study, Dr Sebastiaan Hammer.
“Moreover, these effects are long term, illustrating the potential of this method.
“Lifestyle interventions may have more powerful beneficial cardiac effects than medication in these patients.”
The discovery has major implications because diabetics and the obese are particularly at risk of suffering a potentially fatal heart attack or being struck down by debilitating heart disease.
The breakthrough is good news for the nearly 2.5 million people in Britain with this type of diabetes, caused by the pancreas not producing enough insulin to break down glucose in the blood.
It could revolutionise the treatment of what has long been seen as a lifelong condition with no cure.
Dr Hammer, whose study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, wanted to discover the long-term effects of weight loss by restricting calorie intake.
Pericardial fat is a build-up around the heart that can stop it from working properly, particularly in the obese and sufferers from metabolic disease seen as a precursor to heart disease.
Dr Hammer, from the Department of Radiology at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said: “Our results show that 16 weeks of caloric restriction improved heart function in these patients.
“More importantly, despite regain of weight, these beneficial cardiovascular effects were persistent over the long term.”
Dr Lorna Layward, a spokeswoman for the Stroke Association said: “Diabetes, being overweight and poor heart function can all increase our risk of stroke.
“Losing weight is something that everybody can do something about and it can have a huge impact on improving our overall health.
“It’s never too late to start losing weight, and as highlighted in this study, the less fat you have around your heart, the better your heart will function.
“Losing weight will also reduce our risk of stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.”
Using scans, researchers analysed heart function and pericardial fat in 15 patients—seven men and eight women—with Type 2 diabetes before and after four months of a diet consisting of 500 calories a day.
Changes in body mass index (BMI) were also measured. The results showed that caloric restriction reduced BMI from 35.3 to 27.5 over four months.
Pericardial fat also decreased by about a third and resting heart function improved noticeably.
After an additional 14 months of follow-up on a regular diet, BMI increased to 31.7, but pericardial fat only increased slightly.
On average, someone who has a BMI of 30 will get diabetes.