A weight-loss program can lead to type 2 diabetes remission, even in individuals with a normal body mass index (BMI), via loss of body fat, particularly in the liver and pancreas, shows a U.K. study.
The ReTUNE trial, funded by Diabetes UK, involved 20 people with type 2 diabetes of less than 6 year’s duration and a BMI of 27 kg/m2 or lower.
After 1 year, participants had lost 9% of their body weight.
Their body fat decreased significantly, to the same level as controls without type 2 diabetes, and they experienced decreases in liver fat, total triglycerides, and pancreatic fat.
The research, presented at the 2022 Diabetes UK Professional Conference, also showed this was accompanied by increases in insulin secretion and reductions in hemoglobin A1c and fasting plasma glucose levels.
Lead author Roy Taylor, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and metabolism, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, said the findings indicate that the “etiology and pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes is the same whether BMI is normal or raised.”
This information should make a profound difference in what doctors advise their patients, Dr. Taylor added.
“One of the dramatic things about dealing with people in this group,” he said, “is they feel very resentful that healthcare professionals tell them not to lose weight.”
Based on the current results, Dr. Taylor believes this is “inappropriate advice, and it’s that personal advice that I think that this study points a way towards.”
Weight loss ‘first line of treatment’
These findings support the theory of a personal fat threshold, above which “type 2 diabetes occurs,” said Dr. Taylor. “Weight loss is the first-line treatment for all with type 2 diabetes, irrespective of BMI.”
Dr. Taylor already showed in the DiRECT trial that a calorie-restricted liquid diet followed by gradual food reintroduction and a weight-loss maintenance program can achieve and sustain type 2 diabetes remission at 2 years in people who are overweight or obese.
As reported this news organization, 36% of 300 patients enrolled in the trial attained diabetes remission and maintained it out to 24 months, compared with negligible changes in the control group.
Asked during the postpresentation discussion whether the current results could have implications for the NHS program, Dr. Taylor said it remains, in effect, a study and will not change things for now.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said in a release: “This game-changing study ... advances our understanding of why type 2 diabetes develops and what can be done to treat it.
“Our ambition is for as many people as possible to have the chance to put their type 2 diabetes into remission and live well for longer.”
Mr. Askew continued: “The findings of ReTUNE potentially take us a significant step closer to achieving this goal by showing that remission isn’t only possible for people of certain body weights.”