Defeat Diabetes

New study: Remission significantly lowers kidney and heart disease risk

3 mins read

Beating type 2 diabetes and achieving remission is life-changing, especially when it comes to your heart and kidney health. In Australia, 1 in 5 people with diabetes have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and it's even worse in rural areas. The Northern Territory sees triple the rates of kidney therapy compared to the worst-hit country, Taiwan. 

But here’s the good news: A recent study shows that putting type 2 diabetes in remission can drastically cut the risk of both CKD and heart disease. 

The study highlights:

  • Those who achieved remission also showed a 40% lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) rate.
  • The longer someone stayed in remission, the better these rates became.

What was the study?

Between 2001 and 2016, researchers looked at how a 12-year lifestyle change (increased exercise, “a healthier diet,” and diabetes education and support) affected heart disease and chronic conditions in people with type 2 diabetes. The participants were all overweight or obese and living with type 2 diabetes.

What were the results?

Of the 5,145 participants, the study revealed that those who achieved diabetes remission had a 33% lower rate of CKD and a 40% lower rate of CVD. And for those people who remained in remission for at least four years, those numbers jumped to 55% lower risk for CKD and 49% lower risk for CVD.

Those are convincing reasons not to fall off the remission wagon!

One of the researchers for the study, Dr Harlan Krumholz, stressed, “This paper closes the loop that reversing diabetes can reduce the risk of heart and kidney disease.”

 

Diabetologia, 'Impact of remission from type 2 diabetes on long-term health outcomes: findings from the Look AHEAD study'

Figure 1: Diabetologia, ‘Impact of remission from type 2 diabetes on long-term health outcomes: findings from the Look AHEAD study’, 18/01/2024

FACTS: Diabetes and the heart

CVD is the most concerning complication facing those with diabetes; it’s the leading cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes. The risk is even greater for women and indigenous Australians. This is because high blood glucose levels from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart over time and may lead to decreased HDL cholesterol and smaller LDL particles — all of which may increase heart attack risk. 

FACTS: Diabetes and kidney health

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the top causes of CKD. High blood glucose levels can damage the kidney’s filters, so the body builds up fluid and waste. Diabetic kidney disease is also called ‘diabetic nephropathy’ and is the main reason for needing dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

Eating low carb meals is safe for kidney function and heart health. Low carb, with it’s higher intake of good fats like olive oil and butter, means you’re fuller for longer, and cravings for sweet foods will often disappear as well.

The importance of long-term remission:

While the research results are promising, regaining weight or going back to old habits can bring type 2 diabetes back. 

“The most important thing is to stick to my carb limit. I have diabetes for life. I’m conscious that I can get out of remission as quickly as I went into remission,” said Robert, a Defeat Diabetes Low Carb Program member.

Staying in remission by managing weight and healthy habits over the long term is crucial.

“My HbA1c remains consistent at around 5, and I am still in remission. I’ve lost 20 kg, my memory is better, and my eyesight has returned. I’ve never had a problem sticking to low carb. I find it easy; it’s not restrictive – I get to eat the food I love,” said David, a Defeat Diabetes member who’s now been in remission for two years.

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