Putting type 2 diabetics on a 800-calorie ‘liquid diet’ could save the NHS nearly £240 per patient every year.
A study of 149 patients found that 46 per cent who were given meal-replacement soups and sachets for 12-to-20 weeks achieved remission within a year.
The cost of the liquid diet programme among those who reversed their diabetes came to £2,564, the researchers calculated.
This is £237 less than the estimated £2,801 the NHS spends annually on providing medication to every type 2 diabetic – and does not even include the cost of diabetes complications.
Putting type 2 diabetics on a 800-calorie ‘liquid diet’ could save the NHS more than £230 per patient every year. A study found 46 per cent achieved remission within a year (stock)
The ongoing study, called DiRECT, is being carried out by researchers at the University of Glasgow and led by Professor Mike Lean, chair of human nutrition.
‘The cost of a year’s programme to achieve remission of type 2 diabetes is less than the annual cost of continuing to treat this progressive and often debilitating condition – particularly at its later stages,’ Professor Lean said.
‘It is becoming hard to see why, ethically, people with type 2 diabetes should not be offered the chance, and supported, to achieve remission if they can.
‘This is no quick fix, but instead a promising medical treatment with potentially huge benefits.’
Type 2 diabetes affects eight per cent of adults worldwide, the authors wrote in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
In the UK, 3.7million people are diagnosed with the condition, while 30.3million are affected in the US. In both countries, 90 per cent of patients have type 2.
WHAT IS TYPE 2 DIABETES?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition which causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.
More than 4million people in the UK are thought to have some form of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and you may be more likely to get it if it’s in the family.
The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone which controls absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.
Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.
Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.
Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.
It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.
Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.
Source: NHS Choices; Diabetes.co.uk
Type 2 diabetes is defined as a person having dangerously high sugar levels in their blood and is associated with being overweight or inactive.
In the UK, diabetes takes up around 10 per cent of the NHS’ budget, while 24 per cent of all US healthcare spending went towards the disease last year.
The researchers gave 149 patients meal-replacement soups and sachets that came to between 825 and 853 calories a day for 12-to-20 weeks.
Healthy food was then reintroduced into the patients’ diets with the option of one meal-replacement sachet a day while they worked to maintain their weight loss.
The patients also had regular review appointments with a specialist and were given supportive workbooks.
Compared to the 46 per cent of the patients on the liquid diet who achieved remission, just six per cent of the 149 type 2 diabetics given ‘usual care’ reversed their disease.
Although unclear exactly what usual care involved, the NHS recommends patients manage their type 2 diabetes via weight loss through a healthy diet and exercise.
A 2010 study estimated the cost of treating and managing type 2 diabetes comes to £2,801. However, this did not include the cost of treating diabetes complications, such as nerve, kidney and eye damage.
The researchers believe the minimum £237 saving per patient is significant.
Study author Professor Andrew Briggs, health economist at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘This intervention is relatively inexpensive when compared to managing type 2 diabetes, and we anticipate that there will be cost-savings further down the line.
‘If people can stay in remission and therefore reduce their chances of developing diabetes complications, the cost savings to the NHS could be substantial.
The researchers believe even more money could be saved if specialists met with patients on the programme in groups rather than individually.
They add, however, they only looked at patients who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the past six years. Remission may be more difficult to achieve in those who have had the disease for longer.
Most of their study’s participants were also of white European ethnicity and therefore trials should be carried out in patients from other ethnic backgrounds, the authors claim.
Type 2 diabetes is up to six times more common in people of South Asian descent and up to three times more common among those of African and African-Caribbean origin, according to Diabetes UK.