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Diet and exercise ‘better than drugs at controlling type 2 diabetes’


*Patients who took part in weight loss programme ‘had healthier blood sugar levels’
Dieting and regular exercise can be more effective at controlling type 2 diabetes than medication, research suggests.

Patients who take part in weight loss programmes are less likely to need drugs and tend to have healthier blood sugar levels, a study found.

University of Glasgow researchers tracked 1,500 type 2 diabetes patients who attended an British National Health Service (NHS) lifestyle course and compared them to those who did not.


They found that people who completed the 16-week regime saw no increase in the diabetes pills they had to take. They were also half as likely to see their condition progress to the extent that they needed to take insulin.

Patients who completed the course lost an average of 1.25st in the three years after they finished it – compared to just 2lb among those who did not. Diabetes sufferers who lost at least 11lb also had a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels in the following three years.

What someone eats and how much they exercise remains the main driver of body weight but scientists are increasingly aware that genetics also play an important part.

The researchers tracked more than 14,000 people in the US from 1986 to 2006, analysing their gene variants, diet changes and recording their weight every four years.

And those calculated as being at high genetic risk of obesity were most likely to lose weight if they replaced alcohol, sugar and red meat with fruit, veg and grains.

The scientists wrote in the British Medical Journal: “This underlines the importance of improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns. Genetic predisposition is no barrier to successful weight management.”

The authors wrote: “A real-life structured weight management intervention can reduce weight in the medium term, result in improved glycaemic control with fewer medications, and may be more effective than pharmacological alternatives.”

The course involved 90-minute classes every fortnight for four months, in which patients were given exercise advice and told to follow a diet of 1,400 calories a day for women and 1,900 a day for men.

They also underwent cognitive behavioural therapy to help them lose weight. Study leader Dr Jennifer Logue, from the University of Glasgow, said: “This is the first real-world study to show that the lifestyle weight management programmes that we deliver in the NHS can have a long-lasting meaningful clinical effect.”

A landmark paper last month showed how a three-month crash diet of soups and shakes, totalling no more than 800 calories a day, could not only control type 2 diabetes but reverse it.

But the latest study, published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, shows a much more achievable diet can at least control diabetes, often more effectively than drugs.

Type 2 diabetes patient, Ian Armstrong, 71, from Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire, dropped nearly 3st from 17st after completing the course and was able to stop his insulin.

He said: “Contact with the Glasgow and Clyde weight management service has given me the best help I’ve ever had to help me have a longer and healthier life. A true life-saving experience.”

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