Published on 30 November 2018

People with type 2 diabetes could put the condition into remission by adopting liquid diet.

A very low calorie diet will be recommended to people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as part of radical measures introduced by NHS England to reverse the condition.

A liquid diet of just over 800 calories a day will be prescribed to hundreds of thousands of people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes to help them lose weight.

In trials the very low calorie diet has been shown to put type 2 diabetes in remission in those recently diagnosed with the condition.

The results proved more successful than expected with many patients losing on average a kilogram more than expected.

People with type 2 diabetes will be recommended to take the liquid-based diet for three months with a period of follow-up support to help them reverse the condition.

The plans to introduce the diet as part of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme will be trialled as part of the NHS long-term plan and will increase the focus on prevention as well as treatment.

In addition to achieving a healthy weight people will also be encouraged to improve their overall diet and get more exercise.

A woman walking in the city.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “The NHS is now going to be ramping up practical action to support hundreds of thousands of people to avoid obesity-induced heart attacks, strokes, cancers and type 2 diabetes. The NHS Long Term Plan is going to give people the power and the support to take control of their own lifestyles – so that they can help themselves while also helping the NHS.”

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director of Diabetes and Obesity for the NHS in England said: “Around two thirds of adults and one third of children are now overweight or obese, driving higher and higher rates of type 2 diabetes that we are now focusing huge efforts to address.

“Our work so far in this area has been producing really positive results and today’s announcement will allow us to go even further –  it will help patients who have type 2 diabetes to achieve remission and importantly, help more of those who are at risk to not get it in the first place.”

Sarah Tutton, DRWF Chief Executive, said: “It is estimated that around 9% of the NHS budget is spent on treating type 2 diabetes – that’s about £8 billion a year. The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme aims to widen its reach of those at risk of type 2 diabetes in 2019 and having an armamentarium of tools available that will help them to support the diverse individual requirements to create behaviour change is really important.

“A supported dietary programme such as this could have great potential in helping to reduce the numbers of people at risk of type 2 diabetes; helping those with a diagnosis to ‘reverse’ the condition and reduce the over-bearing burden that type 2 places on our healthcare resources.”

An online version of the Diabetes Prevention Programme will be available to people with type 2 diabetes, or at risk of developing the condition, with advice on apps and wearable technologies to help with self-management of the condition.

The NHS plans to trail the diet in around 5,000 people following the DiRECT trial, where almost half of those who went on a very low calorie diet achieved remission of their type 2 diabetes after one year. A quarter of those involved in the study reported 15kg or more weight loss, with 86% putting their type 2 diabetes into remission.

Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2, which is closely linked to obesity and can lead to a number of additional health complications.

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