FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2022 (HealthDay News) — If you’re one of the millions of people with type 2 diabetesNew research shows that losing weight can help reverse high blood sugar, even if you’re not overweight or obese.

Here’s the proof: 70% of people with type 2 diabetes who were a normal weight at the time of the study went into remission after losing about 10% of their body weight.

Type 2 diabetes is the form of the disease most closely associated with obesity, but about 15% of patients are not overweight or obese. However, they may be pushing their personal “fat threshold”.

“Each person has a level at which they can no longer store fat safely in the body — it’s determined by genes,” said study author Dr. Roy Taylor, professor of medicine and metabolism at the University of Newcastle in the UK.

“When you can’t store more fat under the skin, the fat spills over and starts to accumulate in the liver,” he explained. When this happens, too much fat is transferred to the rest of the body, including pancreas. The insulin-producing cells in the pancreas then stop working properly, causing diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes happens to the susceptible, but only when they become too much for their own bodies,” Taylor noted.

So far, no test can tell if you’ve exceeded your personal fat threshold, but some markers of stress in blood fat may one day prove to be a reliable way to measure that threshold, he added.

For the study, 20 people with diabetes who were not overweight or obese ate 800 calories a day (from low-calorie soups and shakes and non-starchy vegetables) for two to four weeks. They did this three times, with each cycle following four to six weeks of weight maintenance.

They lost about 10.7% of their weight and kept it off for six months to a year.

Fourteen people achieved diabetes remission based on these HbA1c levels. This gives a snapshot of your average blood glucose levels over several weeks. People in remission no longer need to take diabetes medication.

This mirrors what is seen among people with type 2 diabetes who are overweight or obese and lose weight, Taylor said.

An MRI showed a decrease in fat in the liver and pancreas, which was consistent with what is seen in people without diabetes. Specifically, pancreatic fat decreased from an average of 5.8% to 4.3% in people with diabetes, and the activity of insulin-producing cells normalized.

It doesn’t take a lot of excess fat to disrupt activity cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. “You only need half a gram of excess fat in the pancreas to prevent normal insulin production,” Taylor said.

“Regardless of body mass index [BMI], people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have more fat inside their bodies than they can handle,” he said. “There is a good chance of remission if they lose about 10% of their original weight.”

The study was presented this week at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting in Stockholm. Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary to publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The relationship between obesity and diabetes consistent and strong, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, DC.

“Even very little weight gain or being overweight can significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes — even in people who are relatively thin,” Kahan noted.

The good news is that small weight losses, often just a few pounds, can improve blood sugar control and diabetes risk.

“This study further supports the importance of weight control for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and strongly suggests that weight control guidance, support and intervention are likely to be beneficial even for people who are mildly overweight,” Kahan said.

Additional information

The American Diabetes Association provides advice on how to lose weight with diabetes.

SOURCES: Roy Taylor, MD, Professor of Medicine and Metabolism, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, UK; Scott Kahan, MD, director, National Center for Weight and Wellness, Washington, DC; Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, 19-23 September 2022

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