Roughly 5% of adults with type 2 diabetes achieve remission of their disease, often unbeknownst to the patient and without aggressive weight-loss interventions, according to a new analysis of data from more than 160,000 people in a national diabetes registry in Scotland.
“One of our key new findings is that a reasonably large proportion of people [with type 2 diabetes] were able to achieve remission in routine care, without undergoing bariatric surgery and prior to the introduction of very-low-calorie interventions in routine care,” said Mireille Captieux, MBChB, lead author of the report, in an interview.
The findings “support previous reports that weight loss is associated with type 2 diabetes remission,” said Dr. Captieux, a diabetes researcher at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland).
In her analysis, two of the strongest correlates of remission related to weight loss.
First, a history of bariatric surgery, which included a scant 488 people (0.3% of the study cohort), was associated with a 13-fold increase in the rate of remission, compared with those who did not undergo bariatric surgery. Second, weight loss of 15 kg (33 lb) or more at the time of remission detection in 2019, in comparison with their weight at initial diabetes diagnosis, was linked with a greater than fourfold increase in the rate of remission, compared with those who did not have this amount of weight loss.
But “even losing a small amount of weight increased the chances of remission,” highlights Dr. Captieux. “This finding offers a counterbalance to the pessimistic assumption that almost all people find it very difficult to lose weight.”
Hopeful message, but which people achieve diabetes remission?
“What’s encouraging here is that you have people who probably did not do anything radical, and yet they went into remission. The next step is to find out who these people are and what they did to go into remission,” commented Julia Lawton, PhD, a professor of health and social science at the University of Edinburgh whose research focuses on how patients with diabetes manage their disorder.
“If we can understand who the patients are who can achieve remission without taking extreme measures, it could help people in the health professions get beyond their presumptions about who is, or is not, a good candidate for achieving diabetes remission,” said Dr. Lawton, who was not involved with the study.
The message from this study is “very hopeful,” Dr. Lawton said in an interview. “How can we make this opportunity [for diabetes remission] available to more people? What can we learn from these patients that we could then apply to other patients?”
Dr. Captieux agrees. Given her findings, an important next step is to find out more about the population in remission to better understand “their perspectives on the challenges and benefits of supporting weight loss.
“Obesity is a complex issue, and therefore weight loss interventions that target individual actions and behaviors are much more likely to be effective if they are accompanied by multiple interventions at different levels,” Dr. Captieux said.
In addition, “more evidence is needed to assess the sustainability of diabetes remission and the effect of different durations of remission for a clinically relevant definition.”