Almost half of the individuals with type 2 diabetes in a trial achieved remission of their diabetes after weight-loss intervention within 6 years of diagnosis, a new study has found.
The study reveals that successful response to weight loss is associated with the early and sustained improvement in the functioning of pancreatic beta cells.
This is a major finding because it challenges previous thinking that beta-cell function is irreversibly lost in patients with type 2 diabetes.
“This observation carries potentially important implications for the initial clinical approach to management,” says senior study author Roy Taylor in a press release. “At present, the early management of type 2 diabetes tends to involve a period of adjusting to the diagnosis plus pharmacotherapy with lifestyle changes, which in practice are modest.”
Taylor’s research data suggest that substantial weight loss at the time of diagnosis is appropriate to rescue the beta cells.
Approximately 90% of cases are type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce enough or respond properly to the hormone, insulin.
Produced by beta cells in the pancreas, insulin helps sugar in the blood enter cells in muscle, fat, and liver to be used for energy.
In the trial, participants who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 6 years of the start of the study, were randomly assigned to either a control group or a weight-management intervention group.
It was found that one year later, 46% of the individuals in the intervention group successfully responded to weight loss.
Researchers found that those who responded to the weight loss program were similar to non-responders before the intervention but had a shorter duration of diabetes.
The findings of the study suggest that weight loss normalizes fat metabolism in all individuals with type 2 diabetes, but the more rapid loss of the capacity of beta cells to recover prevents some individuals from returning to a non-diabetic state.
Additional studies are needed to assess whether the results can be generalized to other populations for a longer duration of time.
The research was published in Cell Metabolism.