If you've got type 2 diabetes, it may go into remission if you follow an intensive program of diet and exercise, new research shows.

The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found 1 in 9 individuals with type 2 who stuck with an intensive diet and exercise program for one year saw their blood sugar go back to the normal range.

"Kind of a long-term assumption really is that once you have diabetes there's no turning back on it, and there's no remission or cure," Edward Gregg, lead author on the report, told Reuters. However, he added, the study reinforced the notion that following a healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, and getting adequate exercise can help individuals manage their diabetes better.

Spyros Mezitis, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says the research is "an important study to add to what we already know. Losing weight is helpful for patients who want to improve their control."

Some 4,500 obese and overweight individuals participated in the study. Those who followed an intensive program received weekly group and individual counseling for six months. They ate between 1,200 and 1,800 calories per day and bumped up their physical activity to slightly under three hours per week. More than 11 percent of the individuals in this group saw their diabetes go into remission, meaning that their blood sugar control improved.

Managing Blood Sugar With Diet and Exercise

You may see an improvement in your blood sugar control if you lose just five to seven percent of your body weight, says Marie Frazzitta, a certified diabetes educator, and director of diabetes education at North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.  "Losing this amount of weight is more effective than medication at helping diabetes," she notes.

To help you reach and maintain a normal weight, she advises:

  • Increase your exercise to at least 150 minutes per week. That's only 22 minutes each day, or 30 minutes five times a week.
  • Consider getting a pedometer. "Wear it and you will find yourself walking more," says Frazzitta. The average person walks 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day. Challenge yourself to increase your steps every day, with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps.
  • If you watch TV, get moving during the commercials. "Stand up and march in place, or grab a hula hoop and swivel it around waist."
  • When you park your car, walk two laps around the block or parking lot before you go inside.
  • Find an exercise buddy and walk together at least three times a week. You'll be less likely to skip out on exercise if you do it with someone.
  • At mealtime, use smaller plates and keep portions of carbohydrates and protein to the size of your fist, Frazzitta says. "Put equal amounts of carbohydrate and protein on your plate and fill the rest with vegetables."
  • "When you eat a mixed meal combining a carbohydrate food choice with a protein, you will have more optimal blood sugar control," says Amy Grayson-Hyman, MS, RD, of the North Shore LIJ Health System. For instance, have an apple with a little peanut butter, or try hummus with whole wheat crackers.

Spyros Mezitis, MD, PhD, reviewed this article.




Pittman, Genevra. "Diabetes remission possible with diet, exercise." 18 December 2012. Reuters.