According to conventional medical wisdom (as I understand it), diabetes is a progressive, unstoppable disease. Once you have it, your doctor is likely to tell you, it’s just a matter of time before it kills you.
But I keep seeing success-story anecdotes from people who say they’ve reversed their symptoms, and they’ve done it with lifestyle changes, primarily diet. To be clear, this is NOT the same as saying they cured the disease, but the claims are still pretty striking. I see it over and over again: “I lost weight. I brought my blood sugar down. I got off the meds.”
Can I be positive the anecdotes are all true? No. Do I know those people personally? No.
Now here is a study, just recently published, with encouraging results using “telemedicine” to help with diabetes treatment. It’s from a startup called Virta Health. On the one hand, it’s not a randomized study. And the population size is in the hundreds, not the thousands. And about 1 out of 6 people dropped out, though that might actually be low as dropout rates go, I’m not sure.
On the other hand, look at the results for the people who stuck with it (emphasis added):
After 1 year, patients in the CCI, on average, lowered HbA1c from 7.6 to 6.3%, lost 12% of their body weight, and reduced diabetes medicine use.
Forty percent (31/78) of CCI participants who began the study with insulin prescriptions (average dose of 64.2 units) eliminated the medication, while the remaining 60% (47/78) of insulin users reduced daily dosage from 105.2 to 53.8 units (P < 0.0001).
Everybody who was on sulfonylureas was able to get off them completely. (Okay, I confess I never heard of sulfonylureas until today. They’re a diabetes drug.) And there were other positive trends such as weight loss, and no adverse events. Overall, the success of the “CCI” (continuous care intervention) blew away the results for the “UC” (Usual Care) group.
You can see from the chart on the upper right that not all medications were reduced equally drastically. Still, the numbers seem pretty darn impressive to me. I think it’s safe to say diabetes symptoms can be reversed through lifestyle, at least for a statistically significant number of people, at least for a year (the duration of the study so far). We should be VERY interested in further studies along these lines — larger and longer-term. And we should stop thinking diabetes is 100% unstoppable for everyone who gets it. I’m prepared to say now this is demonstrably false.
I was already determined that if I’m ever diagnosed with diabetes I’ll do everything I can to avoid medication. Part of that would be sticking with my very-low-carb diet. I don’t want to be diabetic, but if I ever am, I want to be one of those success-story anecdotes.
[Disclaimers: I’m not a doctor or a researcher, just a schmo with biases and limitations like anybody else.]