About 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. The vast majority of cases (90-95 percent) will be type 2 diabetes, a chronic health condition that can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss and more.
For a subset of these patients, this need not be the case.
A huge amount of research in recent years has shown that type 2 diabetes can be reversed in the body, with a number of diets and other forms of lifestyle interventions sending the disease into remission.
However, it is quite difficult to know for sure how many people are able to complete such a turnaround. After all, hundreds of millions of people around the world are currently diabetics, but millions of them are not even aware that they have the condition.
Against such a background – and outside of scientific experiments specifically measuring type 2 diabetes remission – it is difficult to say how many people may develop the condition before continuing to reverse it successfully.
Nevertheless, a new study from Scotland suggests that the phenomenon may be more common than we were aware of, even without things like scientific intervention and invasive procedures such as bariatric surgery.
“We have for the first time been able to show that one in 20 people in Scotland with type 2 diabetes achieves remission,” says clinical diabetes researcher Mireille Captieux from the University of Edinburgh.
“This is higher than expected and indicates a need for updated guidelines to assist clinicians in recognizing and supporting these individuals.”
In their study, Captieux and her co-authors assessed a national Scottish diabetes registry that contains data for over 99.5 per cent of people with a diagnosis of the condition in the country.
They identified 162,316 individuals over the age of 30 with type 2 diabetes based on HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) values in the diabetic area.
From this cohort, a total of 7,710 people went into remission during the study window (calendar year 2019) on the basis that their HbA1c reading fell below the diabetic interval of 48 mmol / mol (6.5 percent), which corresponds to approximately 4 , 8 percent. of the group.
Individuals who were more likely to go into remission were older, had lost weight since their diagnosis, had no history of glucose-lowering therapy or obesity surgery, and generally had healthier blood tests at the time of their diagnosis.
“Our prevalence estimates suggest that a reasonably large proportion of people achieve remission of type 2 diabetes in routine out-of-trial clinical care or bariatric surgery,” the researchers write in their paper.
“The immediate implications for practice are that these people should be recognized and coded appropriately so that they can be adequately supported and followed up to ensure continued care in accordance with the guidelines for diabetes management. It is important to recognize that remission of diabetes may not be permanent. “
In addition to helping us support people who appear to be successfully reversing their type 2 diabetes on their own, the results can help researchers and healthcare professionals identify which patients are most likely to achieve and maintain remission.
It is still unclear how these results from Scotland can apply to communities elsewhere, but one thing is for sure.
With estimates predicting that today’s population of about 460 million diabetics worldwide will expand to about 700 million people by 2045, we need lots of more insight into how we can reverse this disease, and that soon.
The results are reported in PLOS Medicine.