Weight loss may reverse type 2 diabetes in many people diagnosed within 6 years.

The DiRECT-Aus study enrolled 155 Australians aged 20 to 65 who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the previous 6 years. All had excess weight and were not being treated with insulin.

For 13 weeks, the participants slashed calories by eating only meal replacements (mostly shakes) plus 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables a day. Over the next 8 weeks, they re-introduced food, but could go back to meal replacements for 4 weeks if diabetes or weight returned. (Note: One researcher served on an advisory board for the meal-replacement maker.)

After a year, 56 percent of the participants no longer had diabetes, despite taking no diabetes medications for at least 2 months. The average person lost about 20 pounds, or 8 percent of their initial weight (235 pounds).

What to do

Ask your doctor about using meal replacements to lose weight with help from a dietitian and blood sugar monitoring. Though this study had no control group, the results match earlier studies that did.

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