Can Type 2 Diabetes be Cured by Weight Control?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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The American Diabetes Association reports an estimated 18 million Americans have diabetes, while just over 16 million (about 90%) have Type 2 diabetes. People with this type cope with insulin resistance — the inability of the body to use insulin properly in order to metabolize glucose, starches and sugars into energy. Sugar levels can become dangerously high in the blood and insulin resistance can also lead to cardiovascular disease. This disease is managed through diet and careful monitoring of the blood.

In most cases, the onset of Type 2 diabetes is brought on by excessive weight gain and lack of exercise. Children as well as adults are increasingly at risk due to sedentary lifestyles coupled with unhealthy eating habits. However, the causal link between excessive weight and Type 2 diabetes was unknown until Dr. Barbara B. Kahn of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center co-authored a study that revealed the missing link.

As reported in the scientific journal Nature on 21 July 2005, Kahn discovered that a naturally occurring protein molecule found in fat cells blocks insulin action. Retinol binding protein 4, or RBP4, is known for its positive role in helping cells take up Vitamin A. When present in high levels, however, RBP4 has the effect of inhibiting insulin from doing its job, setting up a condition conducive to diabetes.


It was already known that overweight people with Type 2 diabetes had elevated levels of RPB4, but the protein molecule was believed to be benign. Research revealed that the severity of insulin resistance was directly related to levels of RPB4. As RPB4 levels dropped, insulin action normalized accordingly.

Healthy diet and exercise has long been advised for prevention of Type 2 diabetes. In addition, Kahn's research may explain why many people that lose weight find their diabetes symptoms literally disappearing.

Despite Kahn's findings, the medical community does not consider weight loss a cure for Type 2 diabetes. If the weight returns, the condition will likely return. Moreover, people with genetic predispositions are affected by more than RPB4 levels alone. In fact, some people with this disease are not overweight at all. In these cases, RPB4 is not a factor.

However, for the majority of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes as a result of excess weight, weight loss can often eliminate the symptoms all together. It may also improve conditions for those with genetic predispositions, making the disease more manageable. Medications may be eliminated over time and overall health can improve. Maintaining a healthier lifestyle that includes mild exercise leads, in many cases, to a symptom-free life. Though the medical community won't call this a "cure" for good reason, those living symptom-free after coping with diabetes aren't likely to care about the technical difference.

People who are excessively overweight and live with Type 2 diabetes should consult a medical professional for an exercise program and diet regimen suited to meet their needs.


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Discuss this Article

Post 20

The Diabetic Prevention Programme showed that if you only lose 5 percent of body weight it will reduce your risk of progressing from pre diabetic to diabetic. It's not about pounds, but percentage.

A very small study did show reversal of type 2 diabetes with a low calorie plant based diet. From personal experience, I am aware of Diabetics who have reduced insulin/medications and BP therapy just by weight loss.

Post 19

I am a Type 2 diabetic and I weighed 333 pounds. I am down to 287 now and I am already noticing a difference. I'm eating differently (no preprocessed foods and portion control). I have cereal in the morning, a salad at lunch and a well portioned normal meal to include a meat and two vegetables and maybe even a salad for dinner.

I lost weight quite rapidly at first and then I noticed it tapered off at 294, so I joined a gym and exercise every other day for 45 minutes. The weight is coming off but at a slower pace, but fat is being replaced with muscle and my sugar levels have dropped from a range of 200

-425 to 97-145 and I average a sugar of 102. For me, the solution was weight loss and as I lose more weight, I will probably need to reduce my Metformin meds but it hasn't been three months, so I have not had my A1C checked since I was 8.7. I'm sure its much lower now but I have to wait three months for the next A1C to know and get my meds reduced.

Are there any bad effects of taking the same amount of Metformin even if your sugar levels have dropped significantly?

Post 18

Keeping on a strict diet, exercising and monitoring my blood sugar has reduced me being a 324 glucose to 91-120, so now I am close to normal. I need to lose 15 more pounds, and realistically expect to have to monitor my weight and blood sugar for life. But I also hope monitoring them will help me live longer. I am 57 and don't want to die like my father at 64.

Post 16

I'm a 31 year old female in New Zealand. After months of extreme exercise and diet control, in an attempt to lose the extra 20 kgs I've been carrying around, (which I did) I have been diagnosed with Diabetes (they're assuming T2). What a kick in the face that was!

At the moment, I am being treated on oral meds and insulin in an attempt to keep my levels down and get some control. I get annoyed when the doctors want to change my meds yet again! I know they are trying to find the best management plan for me, but do they not realize how crappy I feel every time I am unnecessarily high or low due to them playing around with medications!

Post 15

I am Type 2. I am 66 years old. I am 5feet 6 inches and weigh 165 lbs. I do not consider myself unduly heavy and I play golf, racquetball and tennis. I am taking insulin.

I started a vegan diet and went for four months without dairy or, oil, plus no breads or pastas. Then I switched to the HCG diet with 500 calories a day. I've lost about 12 pounds. I went off cholesterol medicine (it used to be about 385 before meds, but now am 156). My blood pressure is back in normal limits (it was getting somewhat high). I am sleeping well now, and could not before.

I took only 2 units of insulin yesterday and

my blood sugar was normal all day. Before these diets, I need a shot of humalog with 4-6 units every time I put food in my mouth. My A1c was 6.1. I suspect it will be around 5.5 or less by my next appointment. Diet and exercise make a difference. I am going to see if I can get off insulin altogether. Diabetes was cured in a research study done in Britain with a two-month, 600 calorie diet. (Not controlled, but cured.)
Post 14

@anon34012: If you have Type 2 diabetes, the problem is not with your pancreas, it's with the body not responding to insulin. This can cause problems with the pancreas as it produces more and more insulin, thus overworking it, but the diabetes is not caused in the first place by an abnormally functioning pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is due to the pancreas not producing insulin, but this article is not about that. Type 1 diabetes can't be cured by weight loss, Type 2 often can (or if not exactly cured, then put into remission).

Post 13

I am living in India in a very small town where the diabetic facilities are not adequate, and I am not a rich person to go to a big town take treatment there.

I am pre diabetic. Before I was diagnosed pre diabetic last year, my weight was 67 kgs and now is 57 kgs because of dieting and exercise.

Now I want to go to the gym for muscle training, and wanted some suggestions.

Post 12

I think when the article says "overweight" they mean by a lot. If you are 10 pounds over your ideal weight, that is not overweight, but check your body composition. It is important you have enough muscle to burn glucose. If you are within normal weight parameters but it's all fat and very little muscle, you are still obese, even though your weight is close to normal.

Post 10

Back in 2oo6 I had got very sick. I had pancreatitis. I was in the hospital for month. They put me in a coma for 20 days. When I woke up I couldn't walk,because I was very weak.

The doctors say that I was a diabetic for a year and didn't know it. I've tried diet, exercise, insulin,and other meds. They just don't help. I have lost my jobs. So no insurance.

My wife is working, but it's too much there. And she makes too much to get help. One doctor wanted me to get a insulin pump, when I was working. After insurance it was going to cost me out of pocket 1500.00. I didn't know about you, but that for us is a lot of money. My wife wanted me to get it. I just could not do it! Well I could type for hours about this. sorry to go on and on.

Post 9

Great to read. I am 47 years old, Dutch, male, living in Slovakia. Late April I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I was told to inject insulin four times a day for the rest of my life and to eat less. So I lost weight, from 142.5 kg to 107.5 kg. Yesterday I have stopped with the insulin.

The last month my sugar level was, in fact, permanently too low because of the insulin. I am really mad at my diabetes doctor for not responding to the way I have responded to the situation. I am free of any symptoms just because of keeping a strict diet and a little bit of walking every day.

Post 8

@Anon85842: No, all overweight people do *not* become diabetic. And not all type 2 diabetics are overweight, or have ever had weight problems. My dad was T2, and never weighed more than 220 pounds-- and that was right after he and my mom married. He normally weighed about 180, and at 6 feet, this is a healthy weight. He was never obese and was always physically active. He was a basketball coach. His grandmother was barely five feet tall and weighed 90 pounds soaking wet. She was T2. Half of her never-overweight children were T2. All of my dad's never-obese siblings are T2.

An overweight person certainly reduces his or her chances of "falling off the cliff," so to speak

if they lose weight, but that's no guarantee. There's no doubt that genetics play a huge role in this disease. An overweight person with no diabetes in the family is much, much less likely to develop the disease, with or without weight loss, than someone with the disease in the family.

Right now, obesity is the great sin. It's very convenient to state that obesity "causes" diabetes, but there is *no* evidence to support this. There are too many T2 diabetics who have always been at a healthy weight.

My endocrinologist theorizes that many diabetics with the disease in the family, are probably born at least mildly insulin resistant. An excess of insulin produces genuine hunger, so the person eats more, and gains weight. Eventually, the person's body can no longer compensate for the IR and the person is diagnosed as a diabetic.

Weight loss helps control T2 because it helps decrease insulin resistance, thereby allowing a person's natural insulin to work more effectively in the body.

Certainly, maintaining a healthy diet and weight loss can push the disease into remission for a long while.

Post 7

Do all overweight people become diabetic? I'd like to think, at least in certain cases, only people with genetic predisposition become diabetic when they become overweight. It is a possibility that there might be some lobbying by American Diabetes Society and drug companies to obscure this from the masses.

Post 6

I am a type 2 diabetic and recently started weight lifting and hitting the heavy bag 15 rds every other day. I gave up processed foods, started eating fruits, vegetables and beans which are very powerful in protein and the right carbs that your body needs.

In two months my sugar went from 360 to 100 and I went from 265 pounds to 200 pounds. I feel fantastic, like I'm normal again.

Processed foods are poison and geared to make you sick so that the FDA and the drug companies get richer off you and your family's well being and health. They're counting on your ignorance.

Take control of your life and stop being programmed. Don't let them kill you. Good luck.

Post 5

I have patients in my podiatry office who are Type 2 diabetics who admit that they have gone from taking oral hypoglycemics to control their blood sugars to diet control.

When I ask them how this happened, they usually tell me it is because of weight loss from exercise, being sick with no appetite, or better diet.

But they can bounce back to needing the oral meds to even needing insulin if they don't maintain lost weight.

Post 4

I believe what the article is really saying is that for people who are significantly overweight, most of their excess weight will be a "cure" for them. But only if they keep off the excess weight. For people who are not really overwiehgt, and 10 lbs is not really overweight, losing weight *might* help in the short term, but not to the extent it would help someonw who is say 300 lbs. Its the RPB4 that is causing the problems for the 300 lb person, but not for you. The 300 lbs person is probably producing insulin, but the RPB4 makes it function poorly. You on the other hand aren't producing enough insulin. So in a sense there are 2 types of type 2 diabetes. One caused by excessive weight and one caused by genetics/ poorly functioning pancreas.

Post 3

But it isn't a cure, is it? I have just been diagnosed with diabetes and I am overweight -- by about ten pounds. It is not ideal and I am planning to lose weight but I am hardly ideal. I can expect my blood sugar levels to lower (I hope!) but I cannot ever expect my pancreas to normally function again. Some things are out for me, forever -- no matter if I lose twenty pounds? Am I right? I think that even if I lose twenty pounds, I shall have to watch my diet and exercise carefully forever. And probably still expect my blood sugar levels to rise. Am I wrong about this?

Post 1

That is what I have heard my doctor say, that losing weight also helps cure type 2 diabetes. Maybe it does not help in every case, but in general it is a good idea to lose weight. It is always recommended to discuss any changes in diet, exercise regimen, or any weight loss with a doctor.

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