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The number of adults with diabetes in the world has more than doubled since 1980, with type 2 diabetes by far the most common type. Type 2 causes excess sugar in the blood due to the pancreas producing low amounts of insulin, the hormone that moves sugar out of the blood and into your cells. It has always been viewed as a progressive illness, and nutrition research tends to focus on treatment rather than cure. For example, numerous foods have been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels, and low-carb diets are emerging as the most effective choice for diabetes long-term. But could there be a way to reverse the condition entirely?
A new clinical trial from the UK has managed to do it. For this study, 27 obese participants (18 type 2 diabetics and 9 without diabetes) were measured for weight, fat levels in the pancreas and insulin response before and after bariatric surgery. Those with type 2 diabetes had been diagnosed for an average of 6.9 years, and all for less than 15 years. Most notably, those with type 2 diabetes were found to have greater levels of fat inside the pancreas.
Eight weeks after the surgery, both groups lost the same amount of weight—roughly 13% of total body weight. But the type 2 diabetes group also lost on average 0.6 grams of fat from their pancreas, which was specific to them. Put another way, non-diabetics do not appear to experience any fat loss around the pancreas.
Remarkably, all those with type 2 diabetes no longer required their medication. This indicates that the excess fat in a diabetic pancreas is specific to type 2 diabetes and plays a big role. Removal of the excess fat around the pancreas allowed it to function as normal, which improved insulin secretion back to normal levels. They are now diabetes-free.
“For people with Type 2 diabetes, losing weight allows them to drain excess fat out of the pancreas and allows function to return to normal,” said Professor Roy Taylor, one of the lead researchers. “What is interesting is that regardless of your present body weight and how you lose weight, the critical factor in reversing your Type 2 diabetes is losing that one gram of fat from the pancreas.”
This breakthrough research could really shift the way we treat type 2 diabetes in the future, and researchers now have plans to create a larger, longer trial to see if participants can keep that weight off long-term. It’s worth noting that surgery is certainly not the only way to reduce fat around the pancreas; it was used in this study to “fast-forward” the results. The same results can be achieved through a healthy diet tailored to your specific needs, as well as regular exercise. There’s no way to specifically target fat around the pancreas, however, and that will just come with time as you lose overall weight. As always, consistency is the deciding factor. If you suspect you may have problems with blood sugar or pre-diabetes, see if you have the classic warning signs.
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