Diabetes can be reversed by following a strict low-calorie diet of just soup and milkshakes, scientists believe.
The astonishing claim came after they showed that patients with type 2 diabetes who lose just over a stone and a half (10 kilos) in weight go into remission.
Researchers from Newcastle and Glasgow universities have been testing the diet of just 800 calories a day on 300 patients recruited from GP surgeries.
They are also trying to find out if patients can maintain their weight loss and in effect permanently cure themselves of the condition which is strongly linked to obesity.
The astonishing claim came after they showed that patients with type 2 diabetes who lose just over a stone and a half (10 kilos) in weight go into remission
The liquid diet is put to the test in a two-part TV documentary to be shown tonight and tomorrow.
For the programme, five men and women with the condition were sent to a house in Sussex where they consumed only soup and milkshakes for eight weeks.
They were given nutrient-rich sachets to mix with water and flavours including vanilla, coconut, shepherd’s pie and carbonara.
By the end of the study period, two of the participants were in remission and no longer had to take their diabetes medications.
They included Dan, 41, who was in remission after just four weeks having lost just under a stone and a half (9.5 kilos).
For the programme, five men and women with the condition were sent to a house in Sussex where they consumed only soup and milkshakes for eight weeks
Diabetes cases have doubled in 20 years and almost 3.7million Britons have now been diagnosed with the condition.
More than 90 per cent of them have type 2.
The NHS spends an estimated £14billion a year treating diabetes and its related complications – a tenth of its annual budget.
Researchers believe the liquid diet could eventually be rolled out in GP surgeries, saving the Health Service huge sums of money.
Their study involves 298 patients with type 2 diabetes in England and Scotland.
Early results presented in February found nearly half of those on a diet of 800 calories a day went into remission. The academics are continuing to monitor these patients to see if they keep the weight off.
They are also assessing if the diet could realistically be rolled out across GP practices as a cheap cure for diabetes.
Professor Roy Taylor, of Newcastle University, said: ‘The trial moves forward from our basic work which has allowed us to understand diabetes to see if we can apply in general practice some lessons that we learned from earlier studies.
By the end of the study period, two of the participants were in remission and no longer had to take their diabetes medications
‘After the first year, we found that half of everybody who had gone into the intervention group was in remission.’
In an interview with the Diabetes UK charity, he added: ‘The big change comes about because all of a sudden people are able to move much more easily.
‘It’s like taking off a rucksack.’
Anna Morris, assistant director of research strategy and partnership at Diabetes UK, welcomed the focus on low-calorie diets.
But she added: ‘Long-term, robust evidence is needed to understand how effective this approach could be in practice.’
The diet is featured in The Fast Fix: Diabetes at 9pm on ITV tonight and tomorrow.
Last month Oxford researchers found that a similar 800 calorie-a-day diet also helped obese patients lose weight even if they did not have diabetes.
They lost an average of just under a stone and a half (9.5 kilos), three times as much as those dieting by themselves.