8 Weeks of Calorie Restriction Can Cure Type 2 Diabetes

If you had Type 2 Diabetes, and you knew that living on 600 calories per day for eight weeks would cure it, would you try it?

For me, the question seems like a no-brainer—but, apparently, not everyone feels the same way. The headline for this L.A. Times article on the subject—’British researchers develop “cure” for Type 2 diabetes: Starve yourself’—frames the whole business as preposterous, from the scare quotes around “cure” to equating a few weeks of calorie restriction to starvation (no, eight weeks on 600 calories a day will not be entirely pleasant, but it does not, especially for folks severely overweight to start with, especially eating a balanced diet, amount to starvation).

Type 2 diabetes—in contrast to Type 1 diabetes, which is usually developed in childhood and is independent of lifestyle factors—is usually developed later in life, and most often due to poor nutrition and lifestyle. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. It’s also implicated in high blood pressure, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease and the need for limb amputation and, the ADA reports, “average medical expenditures among people with diagnosed diabetes were 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.”

In the British study, 11 patients who had developed diabetes later in life and averaged 220 pounds were put on a doctor-supervised 600-calorie-per-day diet (which included “a special diet drink and non-starch vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus and cabbage) for eight weeks. After one week on the diet, patients’ fasting blood sugar had returned to normal and after eight weeks, they showed no signs of diabetes. After three months of returning to a normal diet, seven remained completely free of the disease.

“We used the 600-calorie diet to test a hypothesis,” the study’s researcher said. “What I can tell you definitively is that if people lose substantial weight by normal means, they will lose their diabetes.”

This is one of those areas where I have unpopular opinions, I’m aware; I’ve been accused of being harsh on the subject of Type 2 diabetes before. But to me, having Type 2 diabetes is akin to health complications from smoking. In both instances, people bring these health complications on themselves by poor lifestyle choices. Only in the case of Type 2 diabetes (unlike, say, lung cancer), patients have the power to reverse their illness once it develops. Yet we live in a society where people would rather take a pill for the rest of their lives, shoot up with insulin, suffer a whole range of debilitating health effects rather than simply change their diets and habits? It seems ludicrous to me.

Look, I’ve smoked on and off for 10 years. Mostly I haven’t tried to quit, but in the past two years I have, and hopefully I’ll be quitting once and for all soon. Should I, regardless, develop some sort of smoking-related disease, I know that I have no one but myself to blame. We have a tendency to demonize smokers for bringing their health problems on themselves — why not the same when it comes to overweight patients with Type 2 diabetes? And does it really seem so absurd to undergo eight weeks of non-optimal dietary restrictions for an upcoming lifetime free of diabetes?

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    • kimball hendrix

      Good article. I agree with many of the things the author said. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2004 and through diet and regular exercise (LifeCycle bicycle) I lost 55 pounds and was told I was diabetes free. It can be done. kh

    • roy cowing

      I too have done this program. I have lost 70 lbs since jan and I have not had any symptoms or blood sugar issues since February. My blood sugar is normal and I am not on any medicines currently. However, it is my expectation that I will have to manage what I eat for the rest of my life to prevent relapsing into bad habits again. Doing what I used to do would get me right back into the hole again. That will be the hard part. Possible, but hard.

    • lili

      I have always kept to a sensible diet and still have elevated blood sugar– if not quite diabetes. But I come from a family with diabetes history on all sides. I bridle that I caused this in myself, because i have done all the right things. But I might give the two month veggie fast a try.

    • Ammes

      DIABETES ALREADY REVERSED IN 10 COUNTRIES

      The Anti Obesity drug makers and diabetes drug makers take in 10 billion$$$$ every year with no cure!!

      Food Chemicals are the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

      The FDA and Drug makers know this and are laughing to the Billionaire$$$ bank

      The food chemicals break the gut(insulin) and this is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

      A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes and Obesity in now 10 countries and the drug makers do not promote the story type 2 diabetes cure

      just google SPIRIT HAPPY. ORG

    • Briana Rognlin

      Thanks for sharing, everyone. It’s always good to hear “real life” stories along with what happens in a study. And given how prevalent diabetes is (350 million people worldwide, according to newest statistics), it’s also good to hear that some people are finding a way to resolve at least some of their problems without expensive prescriptions.

      You should all enter our contest for transformational stories! (I know the gift certificate is for starbucks, but hey, you could get the unsweetened green tea…)

      http://www.blisstree.com/live/tell-us-about-your-transformational-journey-enter-to-win-a-50-to-spend-at-starbucks/

    • MaggieL

      Ms. Brown can come back and lecture us about willpower *after* she’s actually stopped smoking instead of just talking about it.

    • Joe Cascio

      What is the “special diet drink”?

    • Sean

      I would be curious to see how th is works with diabetics who have no insulin being created in their body. I can see this possibly working for those who have weak insulin being made in their system but not so much for someone who’s system does not make insulin.

    • Nora Su

      Eating a high calorie but low carbohydrate diet would have accomplished the same thing without hunger pangs. Why go crazy starving yourself with 600 calories a day when 2000 a day will do the same thing? I’m sure the “special” drinks are protein drinks.

      btw, for me, it was easier to quit cocaine and meth than it was to quit cigarettes. Haven’t smoked in over 10 years now. As for “developing some smoker related disease,” you already have it but just don;t know it yet. Stop killing yourself.

    • bill

      Ummm… donuts…

    • Bruce Douglass

      After reading the original article, I would like to see a study done with people whose weight is within 20 lbs of it should be for their stature, someone who is under weight and someone who is at what their weight should be to see if the extreme diet is a “cure”. Until then, I will be skeptical given that I am within my ideal weight, use the diet recommended, and exercise yet my blood sugar remains elevated.

      • Susan Lindsay

        How is your stress level, I seem to have higher levels when I have an undue amount of stress.

    • Blake

      People need to realize that deserts and sweets are not food. They have no nutritional values at all. All this processed stuff including hamburgers and heaven forbid French Fries (the absolute worst) are killing you (I don’t eat those things).

      Once you remove the bad things from your menu, you get used to it. Same with the author’s claim with smoking. You may always think you want a donut or piece of cake, but like cigarettes it is a choice to either indulge or not to.

      I can say after over two years without anything sweet, I really don’t want any. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it, so I don’t even go down those isles or the ones where chips and other garbage is either.

      It is surprising how many people talk about TV shows I’ve never seen. I guess they come on while I’m in the gym…

    • Janet

      You can never be “free” of type 2 diabetes. These people have just controlled their glucose levels by weight loss. This is most likey an unsafe food plan. If they gain the weight or eat a high carb meal, the glucose will rise. The pancreas has not changed, they have. It’s truly unfortunate that such articles exist to confuse people and encourage false hope of riding yourself of this disease. Ask any reputable health professional like a registered dietitian or any certified diabetes educator.

    • ROSALIND STONE

      I WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED IN THIS DIET IS THERE MORE INFORMATION ON IT OR IS THEIR A DIET PLAN I COULD DOWNLOAD

    • Phil

      @Janet – the pancreas does change in this diet:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-13887909

      The level of fat in the organ decreases. The parmacological industry has too much of a vested interest in selling drugs to people to allow this sort of research to happen in the USA. Once people learn they take control of their own lives instead of popping pills how will they maintain ‘healthy’ profits?

    • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

      Like Briana said, it’s great to hear these real life stories; that’s awesome.

      As for my smoking—that’s the reason I brought it up. I’m not trying to lecture on individual willpower. Just that the very idea that people go through 8 weeks of calorie deprivation to rid themselves of the effects of diabetes is met with such a mocking or incredulous tone. Or that people are often looked down on for diseases related to certain lifestyle choices while diseases related to obesity and poor nutrition are given more of a societal pass.

      I’m not really into playing the disease blame game, though. Mostly, I just think it’s good news that more and more research is showing how diet and nutrition can reverse the effects of things like diabetes, that’s it never “too late” for people to try, etc. I don’t expect that the average American adult with diabetes can, on their own, make these kinds of diet changes, especially in the drastic manor of this study (nor should they; a 600-calorie-per-day diet for a suspended time period can be done safely, but it should be approved or supervised in some way by health professionals). But maybe the more findings of this type, the more doctors may be willing to really push lifestyle changes as a first defense, instead of something ancillary to the ‘real’ practice of medicine and pharmaceuticals.

    • william macdonald

      i have type 2 diabetes would like to know recipes for 600 calories diet

    • Marshall Bryant

      The idea that you can blame someone’s lifestyle for Type II diabetes is ridiculous until it is scientifically proven that is the cause. That being said, where is the food industries responsibility in this??? Hmmm, and maybe the FDA????? If you think the food labels on most processed foods are accurate, think again!! I was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes and have asked everyone I know, what is the cause of the disease and no one has told me it is totally life style. That is only part of the equation. Perhaps it is the result of a virus or bacteria, along with a genetic predisposition. I know people that never developed this disease and they eat totally junk food. I know people who eat only organic and are vegans, and guess what, they are diabetic! I think you, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, should be ashamed of your assumptions as a journalist, that just because someone gets a horrible disease that they are at fault. As a scientist, I can tell you, you erred in your thought process. As a human being, you are a failure….keep smoking those cigarettes.

    • Bob bitchen

      Whats with the donut pic?? U really are a lowlife by puting this pic with the article. Hope u get a chronic debilitating disease. Its not ajoke and u dismiss it with that pic…doucebag.

    • yammie dunne

      You seem to think that only over weight people get type 2. Then why at 127lbs did I get it?????? Some times it’s not a life style choice, it’s just life!! Now smoking, that’s a life style choice.

    • Gen

      You don’t have to smoke to live but you do have to eat. I found giving up cigarettes 100 time easier than adjusting eating habits! I haven’t smoked in 30 years! Good eating habits developed and followed from childhood is the answer!

    • Ricky Crookham

      I have Type 2 And I am going to try this Diet. I believe it will work it makes since. They need to post more about it.

      • Ricky Crookham

        I am cured of type 2 diabetes It has been since last july when I did this diet It really works take no meds at all.

    • thirtiesgirl

      Food for thought: 600 calories per day is well below the World Health Organization’s threshold for starvation. It’s also fewer calories than WW2 concentration camp victims consumed per day. Please explain to me what medical professional signed off on this extremely unhealthy and damaging diet.

      • Hexaamp

        It’s a modified fast. While controversial, many serious people believe periodic fasting is excellent for overall long-term health. I certainly do. Biannual fasts have done wonders for me including getting me off blood-pressure medicine and also, I believe, off the road to diabetes. Unlike my father and younger brother, I have so far avoided it.

    • Bob

      Although both smokers and Type 2 diabetics can take steps if they want to improve their health, I demonize advertisers and executives. I have heard ad nauseum how people are responsible for their own actions, but the fact is advertising works. That’s why corporations spend billions on it. It is particularly nefarious when the executives of the corporations know full well, as they do, that their ads are aimed at the most vulnerable – children and young adults – so they can get addicted early and become guaranteed revenue streams.

    • J. Nichols

      I am 120 lbs. at 5’3″. I would be losing too much weight at 600 calories a day. I do control my type 2 diabetes with diet, exercise and Metformin. Exercise is the most effective if divided into a.m. mid- day and p.m. for up to 1 hour per day.

    • paul cassidy

      If you read the details of the study, they did before and after MRI scans on the pancreas. What they discovered was reduced fat on the pancreas after the diet. This allowed the pancreas to produce insulin again. Their hypothesis at this time is that the fat on the pancreas blocks normal insulin production and when it is removed the pancreas returns to normal activity.
      I have been on a 600 calorie diet to reduce weight which it did without any side effects. However I returned to my old habits and put the weight back on. My guess is that after the eight weeks you still have to eat properly to maintain the benefits. However, changing negative habits means addressing the the underlying issues of why we eat excessive amounts of food e.g. for comfort, avoiding boredom etc.
      Would love to hear stories from people who have been successful in changing their habits.

    • Emma

      Obesity is not the fault of the overweight person

      In fact, it is almost impossible to lose weight in the USA due to Food Chemicals.

      The food has been legally poisoned with food chemicals and this is proven by a European filmmaker. This is why people cannot lose weight

      A filmmaker has shown how to reverse weight gain with a diabetes diet for NON diabetics in 10 countries and the drug-makers hide the story

      The diet reverses the damage from Food chemicals and causes weight loss

      If you cannot lose weight it is not your fault

      see here http://spirithappy.org/wp/?page_id=788

      • Jonathan Seybold

        What do you mean “Obesity is not the fault of the overweight person?” What brand of snake oil are you selling? Oh yeah, there a link to the diet you’re promoting.

        So you make up a fake reason like “food has been legally poisoned with food chemicals” and then YOU provide the miracle that can save the reader.

        Take your scams that are designed to prey on the hopes of the desperate and crawl back into the hole you came from.

    • carol

      Check out Dr. Mercola. He advocates a diet with no grains or sugar-little fruit also.
      My hubby has had high blood pressure all his life. Even with meds it was high. We walk 3 miles up and downhill a day and didn’t change it. THEN he cut out grains and sugars and guess what?! He has normal blood pressure for the first time since he was 20!
      It is the refined carbs, people! I cannot eat them because I have RA, but when I don’t I have no pain. When I eat the regular American diet I put on weight and have lots of pain.
      It is because of inflammation. Not eating as much cuts that, but what you really need to do is get rid of the junk food and carbs. You will feel better, too!

    • Christine Michael

      The point of this research was to see whether a very sudden calorie deficit and rapid weight loss would reproduce the effects seen with weight loss surgery, which in many cases appears to send people with type 2 diabetes into remission. In the very short time scale of the trial, it did – which is intriguing and potentially very valuable information, but a very, very long way from being a ‘cure’. People who take glucose-lowering medication or insulin for their diabetes should never try a severe diet. But sensible slimming and exercise to lose excess weight – the type of diet doesn’t matter too much – has been proved over and over again to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and delay or reduce the need for medication.

    • Aimee

      Wow. I must say I found this article very distasteful. I discovered I had type 2 diabetes and my life fell apart. While my love of carbs surely played a part (damn them! lol) having a disorder called PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) gave me a hefty helping hand towards my diabetes. From day 1 where I ended up in the ER & discovering I had it I have worked very hard to learn all I could about not only diabetes but nutrition and health as well.

      Since then I became a star patient turning around my diabetes. Going off medication and making my numbers normal.

      But it is NOT an easy road. I actually mentor and give support to other women who are trying to lose weight & eat healthy. It is a difficult road to make life altering changes, even when you know they are for the best.

      I smoked when I was much younger & quit, actually very easily. But I remember a few times I had attempted to quit before that and they were rough. I almost wanted to kill a few people during the time lol. But it has no real comparison to changing your diet and lifestyle.

      While you may often run into people smoking or even smell it while trying to quit. You luckily don’t still have to smoke to live. Yet you always will still need food. It is something you face every single day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Oh and almost every single social event & holiday where everything is calorie high & often those around you will fill you with guilt or try to offer you bites of everything.

      Not to mention the fact that there has been research on the addictive properties of sugars, fake sugars, and that people find food as a way to cope through stress. Which can make the entire process very difficult.

      And the very worst part of it all is even when we attempt to make the right choices we have so much info out there swirling around that it can easily become overwhelming. I can find 10 different articles on research that claim different opinions.

      And lovely articles such as this one which could make someone who is a newly found diabetic looking for good information feel completely hopeless and horrid as they struggle on their actually healthy new diet that is 1600 calories & not 600 calories like the article quotes.

      When in truth it is very important to point out that these people did that diet with very close doctor supervision. And for a fairly short amount of time.

      And that truly 600 calories is NOT enough calories for anyone to live off of. 1200 calories is usually the low point and I wouldn’t recommend that to someone unless they really layed in bed all day lol. There is plenty of research out there that shows that most people who go on “starvation” & low cal diets do not stick to it in the long run & tend to gain it all back. Restricting yourself is a good way to make yourself feel punished and like crap while not helping at all.

      I would ask what follow up diet they would be on after the 8 weeks? Did the doctors continue to monitor them and help them?

      Learning about nutrition. About calories & carbs & sugars and what they all mean to your body. Follow your doctors & nutritionists information. I have lost more then 30 lbs since then and I look great and feel amazing. And you know what I eat more now then I did when I wasn’t taking care f myself. Except now I have learned the difference between empty calories- like coke, snacks, white breads, etc… & all the good stuff. Things I did not learn overnight & took alot of time and effort.

      I talk with moms everyday who are struggling to eat healthier while dealing with a husband who won’t try anything healthy and tempts her with fast food every other day. Three kids who refuse to try anything new. Her work where they have cake and snacks every other week & nosy coworkers who actually will berate her if she doesn’t have “some cake” every now and then. Because obviously if she doesn’t want cake she is starving herself & if she just took a piece she is a fatty who doesn’t take care of herself either- god forbid we actually know what we r doing with our bodies right? lol and all the lovely friends who can’t understand and still wanna go out to lunch everyday. Temptation and control it is difficult.

      Unless you have actually walked a mile in their shoes you may want to drop the judgement. Sorry my post was so long!
      For anyone needed help= sparkpeople.com is a great website. It is free and has alot of great articles and people with helpful advice.

      • marco

        Please tell me how you did it, I mean reversing your diabetes, I have had diabetes type2 for 3 years now, I am 42 and I want to reverse it but I dunno what to do, doctors here in Canada just like the USA just prescribe pills but do not believe in alternate choices, meaning nutrition, I have bought the movie called ”Simply Raw, reversing diabetes in 30 days” participants in the documentary go to this Wellness center in Arizona and they all reverse their condition. I will be waiting for some of your advise…thanks….Marco from Montreal,Canada

    • paul nephaul

      diabetes in fact can be cured if you loose weight esp. in the abdominal area, the doctors in fact should ask the newly diagnosed to to use natural ways before starting medication but may be greed drives them to suggest medication and the body of the patient gets dependent on the medicine making it impossible to cure. here my first hand experience how i achieved normal sugar levels after being diagnosed type 2

      http://how­icureddiab­etes.blogs­pot.com/

    • Karen

      i agree people can take it into their hands to reverse the situation, and probably should be motivated to do so. but it is unfair to say it’s entirely those people’s fault. some people are genetically predisposed to develop type 2 diabetes – so while they may be exposed to the same stressors as others (inactivity, high fat processed foods, high BMI), they more easily develop diabetes while some others may be fine (but simply overweight). so in that respect diabetes is quite different from lung cancers. i know of type 2 diabetics who are have always been slim their whole life and eat healthier than others and still developed type 2

    • Karen

      also one of the reasons why people shouldn’t attempt caloric restriction without medical supervision is because if you starve your body in the wrong way, it can change your body composition which means you lose more muscle than fat, and you put on fat more easily when you revert to normal diet. which means you have to work extra hard to keep that weight off and stop yourself from putting on fat. so in the long term, that kind of weight loss is not maintainable. and just making sure you eat a balance of the foods may not be enough. because it may be hard to get all your daily mineral and vitamin needs from a restricted diet, which is why a professional advice or a balanced complete nutrition like Optifast are best used.

    • Kathy

      I believe this is connected to the LighterLife diet that is big in the UK… essentially consuming less than 600 calories for 100 days. You have to be at least 2 stone (28 pounds) over a healthy BMI to be able to do this diet as it is extreme. I did the Lighter version which is about 800-1,000 calories per day over a few months (with some cheating) I lost 25 lbs over 4 months. Anyway, extreme/ starvation diets do work, it’s just after you stop you HAVE to learn how to eat properly or yes, the weight will come back. And if you are about 30 lbs or more overweight with type 2 diabetes, losing weight makes a huge difference. Why is this so contraversial? It’s better for your health than to remain 30+ lbs overweight. Seriously.