Can You Reverse Diabetes?

If you’re like most people, you probably assume that the normal “diabetes lifestyle” must include glucose monitors, lancets, blood pressure cuffs, medications, and related supplements.

I mean, once you have diabetes, you’ve got it for life… right?

It’s then a life of meeting blood sugar targets, blood pressure checks, eye appointments, foot exams, and more trips to see doctors and specialists.

But, have you ever considered the possibility that type 2 diabetes could be completely reversed?

What if it wasn’t — at least for some people — an unstopped, progressive disease that has to be better “managed” with drugs, surgery, and a whole host of medical care?

What if intensive dietary and lifestyle changes could completely reverse diabetes?


One Study Says It Is Possible To Reverse Diabetes

The results of this small study, published recently in Diabetologia, indicate that a full recovery from type 2 diabetes may be possible, by making short-term, drastic changes to someone’s diet.

Unfortunately, the study included only 11 subjects, but the results are certainly worth highlighting:

  • Participants consumed only 600 calories a day (from diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables) for two months.
  • One week into the study, pre-breakfast blood sugar levels had returned to normal.
  • Triglyceride levels dropped by half in one week, and reduced 10-fold in eight weeks.
  • Using MRI imaging, they demonstrated that fat levels in the pancreas had returned to normal. The pancreas regained its ability to make insulin.
  • After the eight-week trial they returned to a normal eating pattern.
  • After three months, 7 of the 11 were free from the symptoms of diabetes.

One study participant, although finding the diet very difficult in the beginning, stuck with it, and at the end of the trial found his insulin levels to be normal, after six years of having diabetes. 18 months on, he is still free from diabetes and his medication.

Study researchers believe type 2 diabetes is all about energy balance in the body. When people eat more than they burn, the excess is stored in the liver and pancreas as fat, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, in those who are susceptible.

Study Criticism

There has been some criticism about this study from mainstream health professionals, due to it’s small sample size, and drastically low calorie intake. However, these results should not be swept under the carpet. We have long thought that diabetes was a lifelong condition, but this study shows that that may not be the case.

Obviously, more research is needed in this area, using a bigger sample size. However, this research is really exciting, in terms of how we view diabetes long-term.

These results suggest that with the right support, diet and lifestyle change, diabetes can be overcome. And, whether you think this study is rubbish or not, the fact remains that there are no drugs out there with anything near the effect noted in this research.


If you suffer from diabetes, I certainly don’t recommend that you immediately put yourself on such a low calorie diet, without the supervision of a reputable health care provider. Low calorie diets such as this, are extremely dangerous if not properly monitored, and should never be undertaken on your own.

There are, however, lots of changes you can make right away, to improve your health and diabetes outcomes.

5 Tips To Improve Your Diabetes

1. Medical Checkup

There are a number of tests you need to have regularly when you have diabetes. Here are the targets readings you should be aiming for:

  • Fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dl.
  • 1 and 2 hours after a meal, should be less than 130 mg/dl.
  • Fasting insulin level should be between 2 and 4.
  • Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dl.
  • HDL cholesterol over 50 mg/dl in women, and over 40 mg/dl in men.
  • Triglyceride to HDL ratio should be less than 4.
  • BP reading below 130/80.

2. Healthy Diet

If you have diabetes, you should aim to eat a healthy diet, high in plants — I recommend lots of vegetables (7 servings per day), legumes (1 serving per day), nuts and seeds (1 serving per day), lean proteins (2 to 3 portions per day), dairy (2 to 3 per day), limited whole grains (2 to 3 servings for women, and 3 to 4 servings for men, or less, particularly if you are trying to lose weight), and fruit (1 piece each day).

You should avoid all white carbs and high sugar processed snacks. Also, avoid soft drinks, both regular and diet, and fruit juices, at all costs. Instead, go for water, unsweetened tea or green tea, as an alternative.

3. Vitamin and Minerals

You should take a good multivitamin, which contains the RDA/RNI for each nutrient, rather than mega-dose quantities. Take a fish oil supplement, such as krill oil. And, take some vitamin D in the form of D3, rather than D2 each day.

Note: If you are taking a vitamin D supplement, it is essential that you get your blood levels tested regularly. Check out this article on the vitamin D blood test, for more information.

4. Probiotics

The more beneficial bacteria you have in your gut, the stronger your immune system will be, and therefore the better your body will function as a whole; and that means it’s ability to fight illness and disease.

You need to be eating fermented foods each day, whether you have diabetes, or not. So, get some foods into your diet, such as active (bio) yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or a high quality probiotic supplement (containing at least acidopholous and bifido bacteria strains). These are important foods to eat on a regular basis for your gut health.

5. Vigorous Exercise

Exercise is absolutely essential. In fact, it is one of the best ways to lower your insulin and leptin resistance.

I recommend working out 6 days per week, using a mixture of both strength training, and interval training, for optimal fitness.

Most people think that the solution to diabetes is pills or insulin injections, but there is a lot you can do for yourself, too, starting with what’s on your plate, and being more active on a regular basis.

What do you think of these study results? Do you believe it really is possible to reverse diabetes?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol Cripps August 13, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Your healthy diet advice is very smilar to what the dietician gave me when I was diagnosed with diabetes, nine years ago. The difference is, she advised more grains and a serving more of fruit per day, and included nuts and legumes in with the “meat and alternatives” category.

While I have added medication to my regimen, I am still not on insulin, and have lost a total of 70 poundsover those nine years. I have about another forty to go until I reach my goal weight, but I am patient with myself, and try to be consistent in my efforts.

If my doctor were to recommend the approach you outlined above, I would do it – being free of meds would be such a wonderful thing.

My elder sister, who didn’t heed the dietician’s advice, has gained a lot of weight, is on insulin, and suffering complications of diabetes, such as neuropathy. And she wonders why I’m doing better than she is!


Melanie August 18, 2011 at 8:33 am

Hi Carol,
The reason I separate nuts and legumes, is because I feel they are extremely important for good health, and most of us need to be eating more. By separating them, it highlights their importance more.

I’m so glad to read your story, it’s wonderful that you havn’t had to start using insulin. Good work on the weight loss, too. Perhaps an extreme diet like in this study, will become a treatment option in the future.

Sorry to hear about your sister, it’s amazing the difference following the dietitian’s advice has made between you too. Thanks so much for sharing your story.


Kati Mora, MS, RD, Kellogg's FiberPlus(R) Wellness Advocate August 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm

A healthy diet is so important when it comes to getting diabetes under control. I love that you mentioned so many fiber-rich food options! So many people don’t get enough fiber into their day and there are many benefits associated with getting the right amount.


Melanie August 18, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hi Kati,
You are so right, most people are seriously lacking in what they need. Thanks for commenting :-)


eamon January 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

i have uvities diabeties, also IBS i dont drink or smoke. i used to smoke years ago, i was really fit but now i struggle with all these conditions, i have seeked help everywhere i would just like to get being healthy again, my illness is taking over my life,


Melanie January 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Hi Eamon, Are you getting help from your doctor?


type 2 diabetes diet in spanish March 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

You have made some really good points there. I looked on the web for additional information about the
issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.


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