Dec. 6 (UPI) -- New research suggests type 2 diabetes can be reversed in less than a year with the help of a doctor and a weight loss plan.
"These findings are very exciting. They could revolutionize the way type 2 diabetes is treated," Newcastle professor Roy Taylor said in a news release. "The study builds on the work into the underlying cause of the condition, so that we can target management effectively."
The new study, published this week in the journal The Lancet, found 86 percent of participants who lost at least 33 pounds had reversed the disease within a year. Some 46 percent of the participants following a low calorie diet for three to five months were also able to stop taking diabetes medication.
As part of the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial, or DiRECT, researchers at Newcastle University and Glasgow University tracked the health outcomes of 298 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Half of participants received standard diabetes care and half were guided through a weight loss program, which included a low-calorie but nutrient-complete diet followed by the reintroduction of a well-rounded diet designed to help participants keep the weight off.
Among both groups, weight loss was most closely correlated with disease remission.
The findings show the simple solution of weight loss can yield significant benefits, researchers say.
"Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function," Taylor said. "What we're seeing from DiRECT is that losing weight isn't just linked to better management of type 2 diabetes: significant weight loss could actually result in lasting remission."
Scientists defined remission as having blood glucose levels less than 6.5 percent after 12 months, and after at least two months without medication.
Researchers say their findings show weight loss programs can increase the likelihood of remission, reducing care costs and minimizing the long-term health risks caused by type 2 diabetes -- including the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or stroke.
"These first year findings of DiRECT demonstrate the potential to transform the lives of millions of people," said Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK. "We're very encouraged by these initial results, and the building robust evidence that remission could be achievable for some people."