Dr David Unwin
Amy Emerson

Duration: 1:06:02

Read about Dr Unwin's latest results, including how 97% of his patients improved their blood glucose control, and an incredible 77% achieved type 2 diabetes remission. 

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 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.

What you need to know about Dr David Unwin:
  • Dr David Unwin is known for pioneering 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 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 put type 2 diabetes into remission. 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.

Can you reverse type 2 diabetes?

We don’t like to use the term ‘reversal’; the correct term is '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 with the 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 a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

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 on remission suggests that type 2 diabetes is mainly achieved by significant weight loss. The three recognised methods that can help achieve weight loss and lead to diabetes remission are:

  • Carbohydrate restriction (a low carb approach)
  • Ultra 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 can be tough to sustain an ultra low calorie diet of 800 calories a day, low carb provides another option that some people find easier to stick to and 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 observation: “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 suggests 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 points out, based on his real-world data, about 50 per cent of his patients achieve remission, and 47 per cent improve their management of type 2 diabetes. “And that's worth playing for,” he says.

In our 2023 Defeat Diabetes survey, 284 members reported similar results to those observed by Dr Unwin among patients following a low carb management approach.

  • 66 per cent of members returned blood glucose to non-diabetic range
  • 76 per cent reduced their waistline by 10 cm or more
  • 41 per cent of those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes reduced or discontinued medications
  • 92 per cent achieved weight loss (an average of 8 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 approach help send type 2 diabetes into remission?

Yes, absolutely!

A low carb approach restricts foods high in carbohydrates (that cause blood glucose levels to rise) while fuelling your body with 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). You'll even learn how to recreate traditional high carb favourites with low carb alternatives - even bread and pastas! 

“A lot of the work is simply getting people to understand that it’s not just sugars that have an effect on blood glucose, but ALL foods containing carbohydrates,” says Dr Brukner.

Both Dr Unwin and Dr Brukner agree that a critical step is motivating people to reduce sugar and carbohydrates and offering them support.

Dr Brukner adds, “In the Defeat Diabetes Low Carb Program, we help people understand the impact of carbohydrates through simple videos and articles by qualified doctors and dietitians, and give people practical tools to apply those learnings in every day life.

“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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