A research team from the University of Alberta is undertaking a study to investigate whether a combination of diet and exercise can halt the progression of Type 2 diabetes or even lead to remission.
Led by Professor Norm Boulé and PhD student Jordan Rees from the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, the study aims to shed light on the potential for diabetes remission through lifestyle interventions.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, has become increasingly prevalent, even among younger people. This chronic condition affects how the body processes glucose, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. It can result in various health complications, including heart disease, kidney problems, vision impairment, and nerve damage.
In Alberta, diabetes rates have nearly doubled in the past decade, with over 403,000 Albertans, or eight percent of the population, living with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The majority of those diagnosed have Type 2 diabetes.
Traditionally considered a progressive condition, recent research suggests that it may be possible to halt or even put Type 2 diabetes into remission. A benchmark study in this field is the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) in the UK, where participants followed a low-energy meal replacement diet. Astonishingly, after one year, 46 percent of participants achieved remission, a figure that remained at 36 percent after two years.
The key differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes lie in the causes, onset age, and insulin production. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually starts in childhood, results in little to no insulin production, and requires lifelong insulin therapy. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors, typically develops in adults (but increasingly in younger individuals), and may involve insulin resistance and varying levels of insulin production. Management and treatment approaches also differ between the two types.
Professor Boulé’s research builds upon the results of the DiRECT study by incorporating exercise, emphasizing that muscle maintenance and glucose storage are essential for managing diabetes. The study also offers participants one-on-one interactions and continuous glucose monitoring to gain precise insights into their glucose levels throughout the day.
While not every participant may achieve long-term remission, even a short-term delay in diabetes progression can lead to sustained health benefits. However, Professor Boulé highlights that diabetes management varies among individuals, and personalized treatment plans are essential.
As the study progresses, it offers hope for those with Type 2 diabetes and underscores the importance of holistic care, individualized treatment, and the role of diet and exercise in managing the condition.