The scientists found that putting overweight diabetics on a diet of just 800 calories a day cleared the disease and returned them to health in a few weeks. (Agencies)
According to a report in the Sunday Times, so far the technique has been tested successfully on only 11 patients but now it is to be the subject of a 2.4-million-pound medical trial by Diabetes UK involving 280 people with obesity-induced diabetes.
Professor Roy Taylor, Director of Newcastle University's Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) centre, who led the initial study, said the early findings were "enormously exciting".
"We demonstrated that by changing calorie intake we could change fat levels in the liver and pancreas and return insulin production to normal," Taylor said.
"The new study is to see whether GPs can use this approach to reverse diabetes in their patients and whether it will stay reversed. The evidence is that it will, but we need a large-scale trial to prove that it works,” he added.
Type 2 diabetes, unlike Type 1, is closely correlated with obesity. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that moves glucose from the blood and into cells where it can be used for energy.
With insufficient insulin, blood sugar soars, with a raft of dangerous side effects. These include a sharply increased risk of heart attack and stroke, blindness, foot amputation and dementia.
Scientists already know that people who undergo weight-loss surgery such as gastric bypasses often see their type 2 diabetes go into remission, but such treatments are dangerous and seen as the last resort.
Taylor and his co-researcher Mike Lean, Professor of human nutrition at Glasgow University, who will be jointly overseeing the new trial, used MRI scans to observe how crash dieting rapidly removes these particular fat deposits, potentially explaining why it gets such rapid results.
"The good news is that if you cut fat in the diet then the liver fat falls very rapidly — and that means the pancreas can start working again," said Taylor.
The scientists found that putting overweight diabetics on a diet of just 800 calories a day cleared the disease and returned them to health in a few weeks.