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Is Type 2 Diabetes Reversible?

Is Type 2 Diabetes Reversible?

Once you get Type 2 diabetes, you have it for life or until there’s a cure. But for some people, there may be a way to cheat diabetes and reverse its effects. 

Our team at The Endocrine Center in Houston, Texas, has been studying diabetes and helping people manage its symptoms for many years, and we keep our finger on the pulse of the latest research. We’re excited to report that a recent study offers real hope to some people with Type 2 diabetes. 

The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes 

If you’re born with Type 1 diabetes, you have an autoimmune disease that destroys the cells in your pancreas responsible for producing insulin. That means you can’t regulate the amount of sugar in your blood.

When blood sugar gets too high, it causes an avalanche of health problems, including damaged blood vessels, nerves, organs, and tissues. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you need lifelong insulin treatments.

Type 2 diabetes is an acquired condition, meaning you get it later in life. You may be genetically predisposed to developing diabetes, but much of the blame lands on the shoulders of poor diet and a lack of exercise. 

That means Type 2 diabetes comes with early warning signs — and it’s preventable. You can avoid Type 2 diabetes by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Once you get it, though, it can’t be cured. But you may be able to reverse its effects. 

How to reverse Type 2 diabetes

In 2019, the American Diabetes Association broke the news about a remarkable study titled “Remission of Type 2 Diabetes for Two Years Is Associated with Full Recovery of Beta-Cell Functional Mass in the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT)” that gives hope to millions of people living with Type 2 diabetes. 

While there’s a lot of buzz about whether this indicates a cure and prompts questions about the definition of “reversing diabetes,” the title of the study offers an important clue about the findings. The research shows that certain cases of diabetes can go into remission. Here’s what that means.

Type 2 diabetes develops for one of two reasons or a combination of both. Either the cells in your liver, fat, and muscle tissues interact with insulin improperly, or your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels.

If your Type 2 diabetes is due to the second condition, it means the beta cells in your pancreas are damaged. The big news from the study is that those cells may not be permanently damaged — especially in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found that they can restore the function of those beta cells in some patients by removing excess fat from them. This involves a significant amount of weight loss, especially in the abdomen. The results showed that 32% of the study participants experienced Type 2 diabetes remission for up to two years.

Remission doesn’t mean cure

While this is great news for many people living with Type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean there’s a cure yet. If you have genetics-related Type 2 diabetes, those factors are still at play. Furthermore, if you’ve had Type 2 diabetes for many years, chances are high that the damage to your pancreatic beta cells is permanent and irreversible. 

However, if you just received your diagnosis and your condition is largely due to obesity, losing a significant amount of weight can drop your A1C level to 6.5% or below, which is the cutoff line for Type 2 diabetes. Among the participants in the DiRECT study, 7% of people who lost zero to 11 pounds achieved remission, and 86% of people who lost 33 pounds achieved remission.

In addition to all of the other health benefits of losing weight, you can look forward to decreasing or ceasing your diabetes medications. 

To find out how to lose weight and achieve remission from Type 2 diabetes, schedule a consultation at any of our three Houston locations today by calling our friendly staff or using our online appointment request tool.

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