Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured. However, with lifestyle changes, it can go into remission. If a disease is cured, there is no sign of the disease and no chance of it ever returning. When a disease is in remission, however, it is currently showing no signs or symptoms, and there is no need for medication, but there is a chance of the disease recurring.
For type 2 diabetes, remission means that diet and lifestyle changes can manage symptoms with no medication needed. However, the disease will come back if the lifestyle changes are not maintained.
What Causes Diabetes Remission?
In type 2 diabetes, one of two things occur: either cells in the body become resistant to insulin, or something goes wrong with how the body makes insulin.
Insulin is a chemical that regulates blood sugar levels in the body. Without it, blood sugar goes out of control, causing damage throughout the body. Fortunately, diet and lifestyle changes can help restore normal insulin function in many people, allowing them to stop using diabetes medication. But as mentioned, if their lifestyle changes back to what it once was, diabetes can return.
People with type 2 diabetes have the best chance of remission if they begin lifestyle changes within a few years of diagnosis. After five or ten years, it may become more difficult, if not impossible, for the body to return to healthy function without medication.
How to Achieve Remission
Remission can be achieved through weight loss and carbohydrate restriction. Studies show that restricting calories to a very low level of 850 calories per day for two to three months can result in remission. Consequently, such a diet is difficult for most people.
Studies have also shown that a very low-carbohydrate diet, of around 60 grams of carbohydrates a day, can cause diabetes remission. Sixty grams of carbohydrates is not a lot. For example, just three slices of bread or three potatoes equals around 50 grams of carbohydrates. However, many people do find a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet to be satisfying because fat is very filling.
While both low-calorie diets and low-carbohydrate diets can be effective in causing diabetes remission, they are difficult to follow. Fortunately, an important 2019 study shows that simpler changes can make a huge difference. Researchers found that losing as little as 10% of your body weight can cause diabetes remission.
A 10% loss is achievable for most people by cutting relatively few calories each day over several months. For example, a 200-lb man can lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks by cutting around 500 calories a day. For context, a slice of bread or a large apple contains around 100 calories each, while a venti pumpkin spice latte has around 470 calories.
If you want to achieve diabetes remission, speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian about the healthy changes that you should make.
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