Millions of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes could be cured of the disease if they just lost weight, a new study suggests. Scientists at Newcastle University have shown the disease is caused by fat accumulating in the pancreas and losing less than one gram from the organ can reverse the life-limiting illness and restore insulin production.
In a trial, 18 people with Type 2 diabetes and 9 people who did not have diabetes were measured for weight, fat levels in the pancreas and insulin response before and after bariatric surgery. The patients with Type 2 diabetes had been diagnosed for an average of 6.9 years, and all for less than 15 years.
The people with Type 2 diabetes were found to have increased levels of fat in the pancreas. The participants in the study had all been selected to have gastric bypass surgery for obesity and were measured before the operation then again eight weeks later. After the operation, those with Type 2 diabetes were immediately taken off their medication. Both groups lost the same amount of weight, around 13% of their initial body weight. Critically, the pool of fat in the pancreas did not change in the non-diabetics but decreased to a normal level in those with Type 2 diabetes. This shows that the excess fat in the diabetic pancreas is specific to Type 2 diabetes and important in preventing insulin being made as normal. When that excess fat is removed, insulin secretion increases to normal levels. In other words, they were diabetes free.