Can type 2 diabetes be ‘reversed’? Is there a cure?
Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been described as a progressive disease wherein A1C levels increase gradually over time and more medications (such as insulin) are required to manage it; hence people with type 2 diabetes are often surprised when they hear that diabetes may be “reversible” or put “into remission.”
The term ‘remission’ is used more widely rather than cure is because your diabetes can resurface with time, and there’s no guarantee you will reach remission as the research so far suggests that it isn’t possible for everyone. The director of the DiRECT research, Dr Elizabeth Robertson, said: “These results further challenge the perception that type 2 diabetes needs to be a lifelong condition for everyone diagnosed with it. We know type 2 diabetes is a complex condition, and this approach will not work for everyone.”
According to Diabetes Care, remission can be identified in different forms:
Partial remission: A person who maintains a blood glucose level lower than that of a person with diabetes for at least 1 year without any need to use diabetes medication.
Complete remission: When the blood glucose level returns to normal levels completely outside of the range of diabetes or pre-diabetes and stays there for at least 1 year without any medications.
Prolonged remission: When complete remission has lasted for at least 5 years.
A 2016 study by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) revealed that certain interventions which include personalized exercise routines, strict diets, and glucose-controlling drugs can help in type 2 diabetes remission. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, bariatric surgery can also result in diabetes remission in 78% of individuals who undergo the procedure. Although there’s no way to know in advance if your body can “reverse” your diabetes, there are a number of measures that can keep your blood sugar in target range:
- Eat a mix of foods
- Control your carbs
- Stay active
- Keep a check on your A1c
- Work with your doctor
Remission is less likely to take place in the later stages of diabetes as the body may slowly lose its ability to create insulin over time and adapt to the condition. With that being said, whether your diabetes is under control or in remission, the key to keeping high blood sugar down are weight control, exercise, and a diabetes-healthy diet.