Losing weight, including through a ‘soups and shakes’ diet, can help put type 2 diabetes into remission for at least five years, new landmark research has suggested.

A study from Diabetes UK found that nearly a quarter (23%) of participants who took part in a weight management programme were still in remission from type 2 diabetes five years after the trial originally began.

The study’s lead researchers said the results were important not only for the individuals but for ‘national considerations of healthcare costs’ as the number of people with diabetes in the UK exceeded five million for the first time.

The new findings follow a previous trial by Diabetes UK, called DiRECT, which showed almost half (46%) of patients receiving a weight loss programme were in remission one year later, and within two years 36% were still in remission.

The results of this first trial led to more than 2,000 people starting treatment on a low-calorie diet programme with NHS England, which is now offered on around half of health boards across the country.

As an extension of the original trial, funded by Diabetes UK, 95 participants continued to receive support and advice from their GP surgery to help support their weight loss over another three years.

Any participant who regained more than 2kg over the three years was offered an additional package of support. This consisted of the low-calorie ‘soups and shakes’ diet for four weeks and support to reintroduce normal meals.

Compared with a control group who did not receive the ‘soups and shakes’ programme in the original programme and did not receive follow up support, participants lost over 4kg more over five years and were over three times as likely to remain in remission from type 2 diabetes.

Those receiving support lost 8.9kg on average, compared with only 4.6kg in the control group in which only 3.4% were still in remission after five years.

Researcher professor Mike Lean, at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘The findings are important both for individuals and for national considerations of healthcare costs.

‘The programme used in DiRECT is a huge improvement on previous management of type 2 diabetes, but future studies must seek even better ways to help maintain weight loss.’

The study also found that those receiving continued support saw greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and fewer needed medication than in the control group.

Diabetes UK’s director of research, Dr Elizabeth Robertson, said that the findings ‘confirm that for some people, it is possible to stay in remission for at least five years’.

‘For those who put type 2 diabetes into remission, it can be life-changing, offering a better chance of a healthier future,’ she added.

‘For those that aren’t able to go into remission, losing weight can still lead to major health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels, and reduced risk of serious diabetes complications such as heart attack and stroke.’

Another study published last month found that patients who took part in the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NDPP) reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by one fifth, while another study found that there was a 12-month ‘window of opportunity’ for remission from diabetes following diagnosis though adopting a low carbohydrate diet.

This article first appeared on our sister publication, Nursing in Practice.