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 1g from the organ can reverse the life-limiting illness and restore insulin production.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. In New Zealand some 257,000 people have diabetes, according to the Ministry of Health. As many as 100,000 have the disease but do not know it. It can lead to blindness, stroke, kidney failure and limb amputation.
Eighteen obese people with type 2 diabetes who were given gastric band surgery and put on a restricted diet for eight weeks were cured of their condition. The team is now planning a two-year study involving 200 people with Glasgow University to check the findings.
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"For people with type 2 diabetes, losing weight allows them to drain excess fat out of the pancreas and allows function to return to normal," said Professor Roy Taylor, of Newcastle University who also works within the Newcastle Hospitals.
"What is interesting is that regardless of your present body weight and how you lose weight, the critical factor in reversing your type 2 diabetes is losing that 1g of fat from the pancreas."
Diabetes is New Zealand's fastest growing health issue, and costs millions of dollars to treat each year. Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in children, and is the only type linked with obesity.