Doctor explains three ways you could reverse and prevent diabetes

Geriatric male nurse measures the blood sugar level of a patient
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A doctor has shared three ways people at risk of type 2 diabetes could prevent getting the disease and how to reverse it. In a recent episode of Steven Bartlett's podcast show, Diary of a CEO, Dr Robert Lustig details all the steps people can take to improve their blood sugar levels.

Dr Robert Lustig is professor of paediatric endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco. He specialises in the impact sugar has on fuelling diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The health expert says type 2 diabetes is reversible by improving your insulin production and your liver's response to insulin. Three diets people can follow include the ketogenic diet, paleo diet and intermittent fasting.

These diets can help reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar. This in turn allows the liver to burn accumulated fat, which can lead to weight loss and decrease your blood sugar levels.

Dr Lustig said: "Numerous studies of various diets show that you can absolutely reverse type 2 diabetes. In order to do so, you have to get the pancreas to make insulin properly and the only way to do that is to get the liver to respond to insulin properly.

"One way is to not challenge the liver, give the liver a rest while it's metabolising all that refined carbohydrate and sugar. Drop the refined carbohydrate and sugar and make your liver work better.

"So ketogenic diets are the extreme version of this. But it's not the only way. Paleo diet is another way and intermittent fasting will give your liver a chance to burn off the fat that's accumulated over the last 16 hours."

The ketogenic diet is high in fat, protein and very low in carbohydrate. The goal by following such a diet is to promote the body’s fat-burning process.

The ketogenic diet was initially used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children, as it can reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. But the diet went mainstream once people realised it helps with weight loss.

The paleo diet focuses on eating as naturally as possible. It is like eating how our ancestors did - grass-fed meats, fish, lots of fruit and vegetables and other whole foods, such as nuts and seeds.

The diet is said to aid in keeping sugar and salt levels low, plus, the elimination of processed, refined foods. Studies have shown that the paleo diet can provide various health benefits - including weight loss, improved blood sugar control and a reduction in the risk factors for heart disease, type II diabetes and obesity.

As for intermittent fasting, this is all about following a plan that switches between fasting and eating. Many other diets concentrate on what you eat but intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat - for example, only eating within a certain time frame during the day and the rest is spent fasting.

It works by prolonging the period when your body has burned through the calories consumed during your last meal and begins burning fat. It is important to always speak with your doctor before making any drastic diet and lifestyle changes, especially intermittent fasting.

During the episode, Dr Lustig warned that for some, however, calorie restriction alone may not be effective in reversing diabetes. He says this is largely due to leptin resistance, which takes years to improve.

Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that signals the brain when the body has enough energy. When leptin levels are low, the brain triggers hunger and reduces energy expenditure to conserve energy.

Leptin resistance is a rare deficiency that occurs when the body has high levels of leptin but the brain does not respond to it. This can cause excessive hunger and decreased activity.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes:

  • type 1 diabetes – a lifelong condition where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Unfortunately is does not have a known cure yet.

  • type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin properly.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, over 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

It's important to note that while there isn't a cure for type 2 diabetes, research suggests that it can be reversed in certain cases. By making changes to your diet and losing weight, it's possible to achieve and maintain normal blood sugar levels without relying on medication.

For more information, visit JDRF and Diabetes UK.