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This hit all the papers a week or so ago and seemed like something to be skeptical about. Is there any evidence that a 600 calorie diet can cure diabeties in humans? Or is this some theory that the papers have picked up and hyped as reality?

The story in question is reported here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/24/low-calorie-diet-hope-cure-diabetes

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The story itself has a number of very questionable statements/claims. For one thing, a study of 11 people resulting in 7 being "symptom free" over a period of 3 months is hardly proof of the possibility of a permanent cure. As someone with Type 2 Diabetes, I know full well that diet and/or medication can reduce or even eliminate symptoms, particularly over the short-term (symptoms being generally evaluated by A1C testing: measuring the quantity of sugars in the blood). That doesn't mean that a reversion to poor dieting habits (which typically originated the disease) wouldn't trigger a relapse. –  Beofett Jun 30 '11 at 16:16
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Note that 600 calories a day is well below the starvation limit and can therefore be exteremely dangerous to your health. If it turns out that the 600 calories a day diet is beneficial for diabetes patients, then science will have to figure out on what ingredient of a "normal" diet closer to 1500 calories the patient should cut back. –  Lagerbaer Jun 30 '11 at 21:09
    
I’d like to note that this “new” result is not at all surprising to diabetes researchers. I know diabetes researchers who have told me that this is old hat. Of course diabetes type II is a multi-faceted disease but apparently it’s usually obesity that causes diabetes, not the other way round, and there seems to be real causation, not merely correlation. –  Konrad Rudolph Jul 7 '11 at 9:24
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well, with 600 calorie diet you will die of starvation, not of diabetes. –  vartec Nov 10 '11 at 12:11
    
These folks did not increase their exercise. I'm wondering if you could eat a higher calorie diet but add 30 min of exercise per day. I'm also wondering how this compares to the Evo Diet, where folks at a 2300 calorie a day diet consisting of veggies, fruits, nuts, and fish, but no grains or dairy. I don't think anyone on that study was type 2, but the overall health of the participants improved drastically. Maybe it is not in the calories, but in what kind of foods you eat. –  user8495 Sep 6 '12 at 21:27
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1 Answer

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Yes, just as the article in the Guardian says, there has been a small clinical trial, which shows some very promising results. As the article suggests it is premature to recommend people go on such a diet for this reason alone, and medical supervision on such a diet would be advisable.

The story is based around this paper:

Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol, E. L. Lim & K. G. Hollingsworth & B. S. Aribisala & M. J. Chen & J. C. Mathers & R. Taylor. Received: 22 March 2011 / Accepted: 5 May 2011. Diabetologia DOI 10.1007/s00125-011-2204-7

Press Release

They studied 11 obese patients with recently acquired Type 2 diabetes, who were put on a multi-week, 2.5 MJ (600 kcal)/day diets.

They had matched controls of non-diabetic patients who where not put on diets. (I haven't understood the value of a non-diabetic control.)

As well as significant weight loss, they found:

Normalisation of both beta cell function and hepatic insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes was achieved by dietary energy restriction alone. This was associated with decreased pancreatic and liver triacylglycerol stores. The abnormalities underlying type 2 diabetes are reversible by reducing dietary energy intake.

After a 12 week follow-up, 3 of the 10 patients available had returned to a diabetic condition.

The take-home message that the authors seemed to push in their paper is that this offers hope for what was thought to be an irreversible condition, and some inkling of the causes for diabetes, rather than a ready-to-go cure.

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I guess the value of a non-diabetic control is to see if vitals of the "sick" group on the "medication" normalizes to a level commensurate with the "normal" group without "medication." –  erekalper Jun 30 '11 at 17:10
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I'm pondering that. Wouldn't a better control for that be obese but non-diabetic patients put on the same diet? Maybe this was logistically difficult with such an extreme diet. –  Oddthinking Jun 30 '11 at 17:48
    
Sure seems like it, yeah. –  erekalper Jun 30 '11 at 17:50
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And @Boefett's comment on the main question about temporary alleviation of symptoms suggests a control of obese, diabetics with a moderate diet (not as low 600 calories, but that of a "normal" healthy adult). –  Oddthinking Jun 30 '11 at 17:53
    
It seems this study didn't really show anything that wasn't already known, early diabetics can generally avoid/"cure" diabetes by changing their diet. –  Ryathal Sep 7 '12 at 13:53
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