Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin – a hormone that regulates the level of sugar in the blood – in sufficient quantity, or when the human body is unable to effectively use the insulin it produces to absorb glycose by the body’s cells, which causes glucose to accumulate in Blood, which increases the concentration of sugar in the blood.
To find out the causes affecting this chronic disease, whether positively or negatively, experts conducted a study on the impact of weight loss on diabetes, and it was published in June of this year in the medical magazine The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Participants followed a low-calorie diet that leads to rapid weight loss by replacing everything they eat with 3 liquid meals, totaling 800 calories per day. After 3 months, regular food was gradually introduced for 3 months, then normal food. The result was that diabetes was reduced without any drugs in 61% of patients who underwent the diet.
In an interview conducted by Al-Jazeera with Professor Abdul-Badi Abu Samra, Director of the National Institute of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Diseases in Qatar, one of the experts who participated in the study answered questions directed to him.
What is the nature of the experiment that was conducted?
The Scientific Research Fund funds the study, and it aims to know the results of losing 10-15 kilograms of weight through an intense diet for 3 months in patients with type 2 diabetes who have recently started the disease. This study’s researchers are from Hamad Medical Corporation, Cornell Medical College, Primary Care Foundation and Qatar Diabetes Association.
How many participants were there? What is their health condition?
The study participants are patients with type 2 diabetes who are over 18 and have overweight (a body mass index of over 27) and have had the disease during the previous three years.
The BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. The weight is considered normal if the body mass index is from 18.5 to 24.9, and from 25 to 29.9, the person is overweight, but if the body mass index is 30 or more, this means that the person is obese.
And 158 patients were recruited from primary health care centers and referred to the research team that made them aware of a healthy lifestyle. And they were divided randomly into two groups: a group that was treated with appropriate medicines according to the latest guidelines and international standards for treating diabetes, and another group, all diabetes drugs were completely stopped from them and were obligated to a low-calorie diet for a period of 3 months, then 3 months in transition and then they were followed up by the research team With an emphasis on continuing an appropriate healthy lifestyle, the two groups were studied for two years.
What kind of diet did they follow?
A low-calorie diet leads to rapid weight loss by replacing everything they eat with 3 liquid meals, totaling only 800 calories per day.
After 3 months, regular food was gradually introduced for 3 months, then normal food. Each patient was subject to the study for two years. A comprehensive examination was performed during and at the end of the study to determine the diet’s effect on weight, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and liver and kidney functions.
Did the study find that diet can treat diabetes?
At the end of the two years, diabetes was reduced by 61%, meaning that diabetes was reduced without medication in 61% of patients who underwent the diet.
Also, patients who underwent the diet and their diabetes did not decrease, their sugar level was much better than others who were treated with drugs according to the guidelines followed globally, and in addition to improving diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides improved in patients who underwent the diet compared to others who did not follow it.
Should a person lose weight to treat diabetes?
Yes, the decline in diabetes was associated with weight loss, and the greater the weight loss, the greater the percentage of diabetes decline. For those who lost weight more than 15 kilograms, their diabetes decreased significantly more than others who only lost 5 kilograms. As for those who did not lose weight, their diabetes did not decrease.
What advice do you give to people with diabetes?
Based on this study, we say to diabetics, as the Arab wisdom says, that the stomach is the home of disease and diet is the head of medicine. An overweight diabetic will improve a lot if he follows a weight-loss diet. The patient doesn’t need to follow a diet similar to the one we did. Still, he should remove the foods that contain many calories and replace them with healthy and low-calorie foods such as salads and vegetables, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, grilled or boiled white chicken meat, and the like.
The patient, regardless of his physical condition, must move as he is able. Walking is good, and if the patient gets tired, he can rest and then walk. Walking an hour a day or 10,000 steps helps to strengthen muscles, bones and blood circulation.
What advice would you give to those with a family history of diabetes or risk factors for disease such as obesity?
Many people in Qatar have some family members with diabetes; this does not mean that diabetes will inevitably affect all family members. We have research that we have not published yet confirming that families in Qatar, most of whose members have diabetes, do not have more pathogenic genes than others. We have begun to believe that these families’ members share habits, temperament and lifestyle, perhaps more than they do the genes.
These families tend to develop diabetes if they follow an unhealthy lifestyle, but if their members maintain a healthy weight and move actively, diabetes does not affect them. International studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle protects individuals with a family history of diabetes as it protects others. Nobody gives up and says my family has diabetes genes. In Qatar, we have newly acquired diabetes patients and have a family history of diabetes, but diabetes has regressed with the diet.
Professor Abu Samra concluded that the patient must educate himself about diabetes, its causes, prevention and treatment, and take the initiative for prevention and treatment by himself and not leave this matter to the doctor only, and the more the patient is proactive and educated about his disease, the therapeutic goal is achieved for him.
According to the World Health Organization, diabetes can cause the following complications over time:
– Damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
– Double or triple the risk of heart attacks and strokes in adults with diabetes.
– Poor blood flow and neuropathy (nerve damage) at the feet’ level increases the risk of foot ulcers and infection, and ultimately the necessity of amputating the limbs.
– Diabetic retinopathy is one of the main causes of blindness and is caused by the long-term accumulation of damage to the retina’s small blood vessels. 2.6% of blindness in the world is attributed to diabetes.
– Diabetes is one of the main causes of kidney failure.
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