Amy Emerson

Type 2 diabetes remission is IN, restricting calories is OUT (and other hopeful diabetes news)

8 mins read

Take a look at the most recent results from our 2023 member survey to see just how much impact Defeat Diabetes is making!

It’s been a good news year for the type 2 diabetes community. Following a period of uncertainty, 2022 was the year we looked forward to new opportunities. According to Google, we searched for answers to discover new possibilities and personal transformation more than ever. 

While the number of people with type 2 diabetes continued to rise globally, 2022 was full of promising science that gave hope of remission for everyone with type 2 diabetes. The greatest news of all? The growth in evidence shows that it is possible to defeat type 2 diabetes through remission. 

We know there’s truth to this because our Defeat Diabetes annual member survey revealed that 52% of respondents had sent their type 2 diabetes into remission and 84% got better control of their blood glucose. Others experienced inspiring results, such as weight loss and reduced medications.

Thanks to solid research, new technology, and effective lifestyle programs that can help prevent or reverse pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, the future is full of hope for those affected by the conditions. 

To recap all the great things that happened, we asked Defeat Diabetes founder Dr Peter Brukner to give us his take on the best science, the most thought-provoking articles and sensible policy suggestions related to type 2 diabetes in 2022.

10. Reducing carbohydrates does not increase the risk of heart disease

A common myth about a low carbohydrate diet is that increasing the intake of animal-based meats, fats and dairy can increase the risk of heart disease risk. This has been debunked by modern science

So it’s exciting to see that a Danish randomised control trial (the gold standard for scientific research) found that a low carbohydrate diet high in fat is safe and effective for people with type 2 diabetes. There’s also an added benefit to glycaemic control, weight loss and BMI. Great news! 

9. Consuming ultra-processed foods increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 25%

Sadly, there’s been a rise in ultra-processed foods over the past decade, and the negative health impacts of conveniently packaged, overly processed foods have been overlooked. 

A large study of over 70,000 participants examined the association between ultra-processed foods and type 2 diabetes. They found a 25% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in those who ate more ultra-processed foods.

Our solution to the problem? JERF – Just Eat Real Food!

8. Are genetics or diet responsible for an increased risk of type 2 diabetes? 

There’s an old saying in the nutrition world that goes,“genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger”.

In short, we know that genetic factors, such as a family history of type 2 diabetes, are associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but environment, particularly diet plays a major role.

With that in mind, researchers from the US set out to investigate how genetic risk and diet impact the development of type 2 diabetes. 

They found that a low-quality diet (compared to a high-quality diet) increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%, regardless of genetic risk. 

The results are essential to understanding why people develop diabetes and provide support for evidence-based prevention strategies for type 2 diabetes. The findings also emphasise the value of type 2 diabetes risk assessments to identify individuals  at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

7. Can a digital lifestyle program help to send type 2 diabetes into remission?

Diversa Health was an Australian-based program that, like Defeat Diabetes, helped its members to achieve type 2 diabetes remission through a low carb approach.

Our friends at Diversa shared our mission to help Australians living with type 2 diabetes into remission and improved the lives of many living with the condition.

Sadly, the Diversa program closed in late 2022; however, it’s not all bad news. Before its closure, Grant Brinkworth and his colleagues at the CSIRO in Australia examined the efficacy of the Diversa Health program and found similar results to the Defeat Diabetes Program. Diversa Health helped 54% of their 511 participants into remission, with an average weight loss of 6 kg and 90% experiencing better glycemic control. 

If you’re wondering whether an online program can be effective at helping you into remission, the answer is YES!

6. Can type 2 diabetes be reversed?

The subject of diabetes remission/reversal has been a hot topic this year, and this article is a great review of various ways diabetes remission can occur – from surgery, medication, exercise and two proven dietary methods; very low calorie and low carb. 

The study applauded both dietary methods (low calorie and low carb) as being effective in sending type 2 diabetes into remission. Still, it concluded that more studies are required to compare the two effectively.

However, we have to disagree – the evidence is out there. To date, there have been 22 randomised control trials comparing low carb diets to low fat diets in the management of type 2 diabetes. 19 RCTs have shown greater improvements in HbA1c for those following a low carbohydrate diet versus those following a low fat diet.

5. Restricting calories may not work when it comes to overcoming obesity

Dr David D Ludwig is a well-respected endocrinologist, researcher and professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. He conducted a comprehensive review that looked into the cause of obesity. He put forward a theory that the calorie and energy balance model (i.e. calories in, calories out) is wrong. 

According to this theory, he argues that cutting back on calories doesn’t work in the long-term, because it doesn’t address the underlying issues of our bodies storing fat because of hormones and other biological influences. He says if we try to ignore hunger and restrict calories, the body conserves energy by slowing metabolism. 

Instead, he believes the focus should be on reducing blood glucose spikes and insulin after meals with a higher-fat diet low in processed carbs. His study suggests that this will lead to less hunger and increased weight loss without calorie restriction, increasing the likelihood of long-term success.

4.  The psychology of eating and food addiction

UK psychologist Jen Unwin published a paper that looked at food addiction, specifically ultra-processed food addiction. Even though 20% of adults meet the criteria for this condition, food addiction is not a recognised clinical diagnosis.

The study focused on a whole food low carbohydrate approach alongside education and psychosocial support for food addiction recovery. 

Overall, participants significantly reduced food addiction symptoms, losing an average of 2.34 kg and significantly improving their mental wellbeing. 

Our recent webinar with Dr Peter Brukner and Natalie E. West The Psychology of Eating gave a glimpse into this exciting field. They shared how psychology and medicine can help people control their eating patterns, improve blood glucose control, lose weight and prevent chronic disease. 

3. Saturated fat – isn’t it time to admit we got it all wrong?

2022 brought more papers on saturated fat and rigorous clinical trials testing the diet-heart hypothesis. With robust evidence to disprove the theory, we’ve forged on with a new awareness that saturated fats do not cause heart disease, but it’s taking policymakers time to catch up.

Nina Teicholz, New York Times bestselling author of The Big Fat Surprise,  called out the biases and vested interests of the dietary guidelines. Teicholz said that until the recent science on saturated fat is incorporated into the dietary guidelines, the guidelines cannot be seen as evidence-based.

Another study of Italian adults found new evidence that the diet-heart hypothesis was outdated and false. Researchers found that saturated fats do not seem to harm heart health and may lower the risk of heart disease. 

Debunking the myth even more, researcher Francesa Cortese said that saturated fatty acids are not ‘villains’ and can be safely included in the diet to reduce heart disease risk. 

2. Sugar and artificial sweeteners – both a nutritional catastrophe

Sadly, researchers from Deakin University found that sugar-sweetened drink sales increased globally by 36%. Added sugars from packaged food sales increased globally by 9%. Food and drinks are getting sweeter. Even if it’s not sugar, it’s bad for our health.

One study looked at tsugar-sweetened beverages and found a strong relationship between sugary drinks and obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. 

Meanwhile, there’s a common misconception that artificial sweeteners are harmless and a good alternative to sugar; however, the evidence suggests otherwise. In a  study of French adults, artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose) were associated with heart diseases.

Finally, another study looked at the effects of sweeteners on insulin response and the gut microbiome. 120 healthy adults took saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and stevia sachets for 2 weeks in doses lower than the acceptable daily intake. The result? Some sweeteners caused elevated blood glucose and distinct changes in the microbiome. 

1. Meat – From inflation to poor imitations (and a couple of big wins)

As the cost of living increased so did the price of meat, becoming less accessible to many (psst… here are some tips on how to find the best cuts of meat on a budget).

But wait—it gets worse. We saw big corporate food companies jumping on the plant-based train, promoting products that mimic meat. While these products often look, taste, and feel like meat, they cannot replicate the nutritional properties of natural animal-based products. They often lack nutritional value or contain high amounts of carbs that aren’t found in the real stuff. We certainly hope we leave this fake meat trend behind in 2023.

One clear win for meat is a study that looked at the relationship between unprocessed red meat consumption and chronic disease. It found very little evidence linking colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke to red meat intake. And another win! Another study found that those who consumed meat had lower depression and lower anxiety.

What now?

With researchers uncovering more evidence to support chronic disease management through changes to diet and lifestyle, those with type 2 diabetes have more hope than ever before. 

With type 2 diabetes remission now more closely understood and supported by evidence, it’s likely that more and more people will be able to reverse their condition in the coming years.  

This year’s round-up of news and science is encouraging, but it’s important to remember that remission of type 2 diabetes requires action. 

With the right approach, it’s possible to put type 2 diabetes into remission and reduce the risk of developing serious health complications. 

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