Type 2 diabetes can be reversed following an intensive weight management program even six years post-diagnosis.

British researchers helped patients lose an average of 10 kilograms and saw nearly half revert to a non-diabetic status after a year of dieting.

The goal was to demonstrate the role diet can play even without intense exercise or medications to control blood sugar.

“Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments,” explained Roy Taylor from Newcastle University. He co-authored the study with Mike Lean of Glasgow University. “Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed.”

Researchers urged adoption of the diet-first approach across the healthcare continuum. The study was published in December’s Lancet.

For this study, 298 adults aged 20 to 65 years followed a low-calorie diet that started with liquid meal replacements, followed by stepped food reintroduction and ongoing support including cognitive behavioral therapy and strategies to increase physical activity.

The authors noted the majority of participants were white, meaning the findings may not apply to other ethnic and racial groups such as south Asians, who tend to develop diabetes with less weight gain.