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Reversing diabetes with weight loss

Recently it was reported (The Star Malaysia, 14 Nov 2019) that Malaysia has the highest rate of type 2 diabetics in Asia (~3.6 million), with many are still unaware that they might have the disease.

Diabetes is a dangerous, chronic disease that affect many of the body organ systems such as the eyes, kidneys, heart, legs and nerves. The constant raised sugar level in the blood will slowly damage these organs over time, rendering them dysfunctional eventually. As the damages happen slowly, people won't usually notice anything until after many years . Blindness, kidney failure requiring dialysis, legs amputation and heart attack are among the common long term complications of diabetes.

Having excess weight will increase your risk of developing diabetes. The more excess weight that you have, the higher your risk of developing diabetes will be, doesn't matter if you are male or female, as can be seen from the graph below.

It is not the end of the world though if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. The good news is, you might be able to put your diabetes in remission or to put it simply, reverse your diabetes if you lose the excess weight. Obesity and diabetes are closely related and it is futile to attempt to control diabetes without having to lose the excess weight.

There is an ongoing study being done in the United Kingdom (DIRECT trial), where diabetics who have excess weight are being put into a lifestyle modification program to make them lose weight. After a year, encouraging results are seen where diabetes remission is demonstrated to be possible with decent amount of weight loss.

Interestingly enough, the more weight that you lose, the higher your chance of reversing diabetes would be.

This finding is vital for the newly diagnosed diabetic or those who are pre-diabetic as the likelihood of diabetes reversal is much higher in these people compared to those who have had it for a much longer duration (~6 years and above).

Therefore, if you have diabetes and at the same time have obesity or are overweight, please make the effort to lose the excess weight. The shorter the duration of your body in a diabetic state, the lesser the damage that will be inflicted to your precious organs.

Losing weight and maintaining the weight loss however is not an easy task to achieve. The larger the amount of weight that you need to lose, the harder the effort required would be. As recommended by the American Diabetes Association above, weight loss treatment plan should be based on severity to ensure higher likelihood of succeeding. Just recommending only diet and physical activity to everyone regardless of excess weight severity wouldn't suffice anymore. There are other aids available such as behavioural therapy by psychologist, medications and bariatric surgery that can be employed depending on the needs of the individual. The addition of these aids to a good diet plan and adequate physical activity would make significant and sustained weight loss much more likely to succeed.

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