Newcastle research shows insulin producing ability can improve in type 2 diabetes

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Professor Roy Taylor’s research team at Newcastle University have shown that insulin producing ability can be recovered in people with type 2 diabetes after diagnosis, allowing remission to occur.
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body not responding well to insulin and also in not being able to produce enough insulin to control sugar levels. Remission of type 2 diabetes is when people are able to achieve healthy blood sugar levels without the need for diabetes medication.
Prof. Taylor’s team say a key factor in achieving remission is in allowing the pancreas to recover so they can start working properly again. Losing weight and shedding excess fat from around the liver and pancreas may allow the pancreas to recover.
Prof. Taylor stated: “These results provide a dramatic window into the body, allowing us to see exactly what is happening as people change from having type 2 diabetes to being healthy.”
The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) involved 298 people. The programme involved following a very low calorie diet, then re-introducing a little more healthy food, followed by long-term support to maintain weight loss.
Initial findings from 2017 showed that up to 46 per cent of those who had been following the programme achieved and maintained remission from type 2 diabetes after 12 months.
To investigate further, the researchers looked at two smaller groups which included 29 ‘responders’ (people who achieved remission) and 16 ‘non-responders’ (those that had not achieved remission). Within these groups, the researchers measured levels of liver and pancreas fat and reviewed other data.
The results showed that ‘responders’ who achieved remission had lost more liver fat and had greater first-phase insulin response. First-phase insulin response is the amount of insulin the body can produce immediately following a meal.
The researchers are keen to carry out more work to determine why the beta cells of the pancreas, that produce insulin, are more likely to recover in some people, than others.
The research is published in the Cell Metabolism journal.