Experiences of a type 2 diabetes remission intervention

Recent research has shown that type 2 diabetes remission may be possible for some people. We take a look at a study that looks at people’s experiences of the The Diabetes REmission Clinical Trial. 

By Amelia Williams

A lot of people have been talking about type 2 diabetes remission lately. This is because recent research has shown that remission of type 2 diabetes may be possible for some people. Remission refers to when blood glucose levels fall into a healthy range. This means that an individual may no longer need to take medications for their diabetes. Remission is usually achieved through weight loss via intensive diet change or bariatric surgery.

In 2017, researchers undertook the first clinical trial to look at type 2 diabetes remission. It was called The Diabetes REmission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) and people with Type 2 diabetes were invited to participate. The trial involved reducing calorie intake through meal replacement, followed by a reintroduction of food and continued weight loss maintenance. Health professionals supported participants throughout the entire study (2 years).

They found that 36% of people that followed this program were in type 2 diabetes remission after 2 years. However, there were certain challenges to undertaking such an intensive program.

A recent study conducted by Dr Lucia Rehackova and colleagues asked some of the people who participated about their experiences.

Overall, they found that individual experiences were quite varied. For example, feelings of tiredness and hunger in the initial phase lessened over time for some. For others, this continued or fluctuated throughout the trial. The routine that was established during the trial helped some people to maintain their weight loss. Others expressed concern about maintaining weight loss due to the high level of effort and feelings of restriction that came with a diet.

Health professional involvement was key in supporting participants overcome challenges and tailoring the program to fit their individual needs. Overall, this study helped to show that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to type 2 diabetes remission. Like the participants in this study, people with diabetes have different life contexts, medical history, goals, desires, and experiences. Future research, interventions and health professionals need to take this into account, focusing on supporting people with diabetes to achieve health goals that are both desirable and achievable for the individual.

If you would like to know more about type 2 diabetes remission, check out the Diabetes Australia position statement: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021_Diabetes-Australia-Position-Statement_Type-2-diabetes-remission_2.pdf

Rehackova L, Rodrigues AM, Thom G, et al. Participant experiences in the Diabetes REmission Clinical Trial (DiRECT). Diabetic Medicine. 2021: e14689. doi:10.1111/dme.14689. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34519099.