We’re still on a high from the Defeat Diabetes webinar, ‘Can a low carb diet reverse type 2 diabetes’, with low carb legend Dr David Unwin.
Dr Unwin is a UK family doctor (GP) and researcher widely credited with transforming the treatment of type 2 diabetes through a low carb approach and who’s still on the frontline of the type 2 diabetes epidemic.
If you know a little bit about the low carb approach to managing type 2 diabetes, you may be familiar with the work of Dr David Unwin.
Over the past decade, Dr Unwin has made an incredible contribution to the type 2 diabetes community. With his clinic recently achieving its 118th case of remission, he’s changed the narrative surrounding type 2 diabetes to one that offers hope through the real possibility of remission.
We hope Dr Unwin’s “message of hope” helps you to realise that a life without the burden of type 2 diabetes is within reach.
Here’s what you need to know about this low carb legend:
- Dr David Unwin is known for pioneering the use of a low carbohydrate diet to send type 2 diabetes into remission (and after watching this event, you’ll wish he were your GP too)!
- He’s an expert clinical advisor to the UK Royal College of General Practitioners. In 2016, he won the prestigious NHS Innovator of the Year award for motivating diabetes patients to adopt low carb diets to manage and put their condition into remission. The word ‘motivation’ is key here. As you’ll discover, it’s absolutely critical to Dr Unwin’s success.
- Dr Unwin has been highly recognised for his work within his field. He’s written several important peer-reviewed papers to strengthen the science behind low carb diets, and he’s currently the medical advisor to the NHS’ Low Carb Program.
- His work has been covered by many UK media outlets, including BBC, New Scientist, Daily Mail and The British Medical Journal.
In this exclusive Defeat Diabetes event, Dr David Unwin joined Defeat Diabetes founder, Dr Peter Brukner, to discuss whether a low carb diet can reverse type 2 diabetes. We’ve summarised the highlights of the discussion, but we highly recommend watching the full event below.
Missed out on the live webinar? Watch the replay of this dynamite duo below, or download the full transcript here.
Can you reverse type 2 diabetes?
Yes, but we don’t like to use the term ‘reversal’; it’s called ‘remission’, and we’re chuffed that Dr Unwin agrees!
Dr Unwin prefers the term ‘remission’ over ‘reversal’ because “it’s a reminder that if you go back to your old diet, you’ll be in the same pickle you were in before,” he says.
He mentioned an important consensus report released in 2021, giving a universally agreed definition of what ‘remission’ looks like.
And now that we have global acceptance that type 2 diabetes can be put into remission and is no longer considered a “progressive disease, ” we can send people living with type 2 diabetes a “message of hope” and a real possibility of remission.
What is type 2 diabetes remission?
Remission doesn’t mean it’s cured or reversed – it simply means blood glucose levels are below the range associated with type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Remission is a term that describes a decrease in, or disappearance of, the signs and symptoms of a disease.
To put your type 2 diabetes into remission, you need to have an HbA1c of under 6.5% (48mmol/mol) for at least three months without needing glucose-lowering medications.
Once you tick those boxes, you’re in remission. Well done to you!
How can I achieve type 2 diabetes remission?
The most substantial evidence we have on remission suggests that type 2 diabetes is mainly put into remission by weight loss. The three recognised methods that can help achieve weight loss and lead to diabetes remission are:
- Carbohydrate restriction (a low carb approach)
- Low calorie (generally intended for a short period of time)
- Bariatric surgery
Studies have shown that a low carb approach is effective or better than other dietary approaches for type 2 diabetes management.
As it’s tough to sustain a low calorie diet of 800 calories a day, low carb is the most sustainable way to send type 2 diabetes into remission. And bariatric surgery is not a decision made lightly, as it involves major and costly surgery.
One of Dr Unwin’s patients, Elizabeth, made this realisation: “I’ve previously been on diets (and I’ve been on very many diets), and a diet is something you’re on, and you will come off it. Low carb for somebody with type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle. And what you have to do is tailor it so that you love it, and you can enjoy it.”
For the record, we don’t like the term diet either. We prefer “a low carb approach” or “low carb lifestyle” as it considers that you’re making sustainable changes to your health that can be maintained for life.
What if I don’t achieve type 2 diabetes remission? Am I a failure?
Certainly not! As Dr Unwin pointed out, based on his real-world data, about 50 per cent of his patients achieve remission, and 47 per cent improve their diabetic control. “And that’s really worth playing for”, he says.
In a 2022 survey of Defeat Diabetes members, we found something similar.
- 52 per cent of members sent their condition into remission
- 84 per cent of respondents were able to improve their blood sugar levels
- 76 per cent reduced their waistline (an average of 7.3 cms)
- 30 per cent reduced or discontinued medications
- 78 achieved weight loss (an average of 6 kilograms).
So no. You’re not a failure if you don’t achieve remission because chances are you’ve greatly improved your health in so many other ways.
Can a low carb diet help send type 2 diabetes into remission?
A low carb diet restricts foods high in carbohydrates (that cause blood glucose levels to rise) while fuelling your body with healthy fats and quality sources of protein that help your appetite control, leaving you feeling full for longer.
You’ll replace ‘staple’ carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, cereals and grains with low carbohydrate above-ground vegetables, salads and whole-food proteins (like fish, meat, dairy and eggs)
The crux of a low carb diet is basically ignoring the dietary guidelines, so low carb practitioners and programs like Defeat Diabetes are focused on educating people on the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels.
“A lot of the work is simply getting people to understand that it’s not just sugars that have an impact on blood glucose, but ALL foods containing carbohydrates”, says Dr Brukner.
Both doctors agree that a critical step is motivating people to cut out sugar and carbohydrates and offering support.
Dr Brukner adds, “in the Defeat Diabetes Program, we help people understand the impact of carbohydrates by offering video lessons and masterclasses delivered via an app-based program.”
“We help people with type 2 diabetes develop the confidence to reduce carbohydrates by offering plenty of helpful resources, weekly meal plans, delicious low carb recipes and a members-only community that offers extra support and guidance”.
This low carb approach, employed by Dr David Unwin and Dr Peter Brukner, is why so many people have achieved type 2 diabetes remission and significantly improved their health under their guidance.
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