By Tracey Fossaluzza, Diabetes Programme Manager, Surrey Heartlands

What if there was a way to benefit the millions of people living with Type Two diabetes and help them live well for longer?

Recently NHS England announced that it will be rolling out a pilot Type Two diabetes remission programme, inspired by the success of the DiRECT (DIabetes REmission Clinical Trial) study funded by Diabetes UK with its largest ever research grant of £2.5 million.

The DiRECT study is exploring putting Type Two diabetes into remission using non-surgical weight management with a low-energy liquid diet and long-term maintenance within routine NHS care.

Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said: “The first year results of the DiRECT study showed that, for some people with Type 2 diabetes, an intensive, low-calorie weight loss programme delivered with ongoing support through primary care could put their condition into remission.

“While this ground-breaking study continues to explore how long-lasting these benefits are, we are delighted that NHS England has been inspired by this work to pilot a Type Two remission programme through the NHS.”

Of course remission is not the same as cure. At this time there is no known cure for either Type One diabetes or Type Two diabetes. However, Diabetes UK is currently spending £6m a year to fund pioneering, life-changing research like the DiRECT project, to find a cure for all types of diabetes.

In Surrey Heartlands Phil Hall from Woking, although not a part of the study or the NHS pilot, is happy to say that his Type Two diabetes is in remission after he too made supervised adjustments in exercise levels and diet that he describes as a ‘lifestyle change’.  Phil is clear that he is not taking any diabetes medication and is no longer ‘on the diabetes spectrum’.

Phil undergoes diabetes screening tests every six months under the supervision of a diabetes specialist nurse at his GP practice in West Byfleet and recommends any diabetes patient who succeeds in achieving remission to do the same.

You can watch Phil tell his own story here.

The DiRECT project began in 2011 with a ground-breaking study at Newcastle University that tested a new approach to weight management. And aimed to work out why this might be able to put Type Two into remission.

Under close supervision from a medical team, 11 people with Type Two diabetes went on a diet of around 800 calories a day for eight weeks. After two months, everyone who took part in the study was in remission from Type Two diabetes. And three months later, most still had normal blood glucose control.

A further study, involving 30 people with Type Two diabetes, confirmed these findings and showed people could stay in remission for six months after the low-calorie diet was completed. It also suggested that the diet was effective in people that had Type Two diabetes for up to 10 years.

If the DiRECT study and the NHS pilot show that weight management support using a low-calorie diet can help people put their Type Two diabetes into remission, it could completely change the way that Type Two diabetes is viewed and treated by the NHS. It could also help us understand more about the biology of Type Two diabetes and remission. Ultimately, it could benefit the millions of people living with Type Two diabetes and help them live well for longer.

You can watch a patient and a Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University talk about the DiRECT project here.