Diabetes UK, NIHR Fund Research to Boost Type 2 Diabetes Remission Rates

Somi Igbene PhD ANutrMarch 16, 2022

Diabetes UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have raised £2.2 million to fund a new research project – NewDAWN – aiming to help more patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes put the condition into remission. 

Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health, and Paul Aveyard, professor of behavioural medicine, both at the University of Oxford will lead the NewDAWN research programme.  

“We are delighted to be partnering with the NIHR to fund the next critical step in our mission to make type 2 diabetes remission a reality for the many and not the few. People with diabetes, healthcare professionals and researchers provided us with valuable insights into what is needed to help more people with type 2 diabetes to go into remission. With the NIHR, we are acting on these recommendations and making a significant investment into the future of remission services. 

We hope Professor Jebb’s research will result in new support services for the thousands of people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year in the UK, giving them the best opportunity to lose weight and go into remission,” Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK said in a media release

Once thought of as a lifelong condition, research shows that overweight patients can put type 2 diabetes into remission with substantial weight loss. Remission is when individuals with type 2 diabetes maintain blood sugar levels (glycated haemoglobin [HbA1c] lower than 48 mmol/mol) without using medication. 

The evidence for remission came from the DiRECT trial, a very low-calorie diet requiring participants to replace their usual food with meal replacement products such as soups and shakes. The majority (86%) of participants who lost at least 15kg during the study achieved remission. Remarkably, 70% of participants achieving remission maintained it two years after the study. The study results have led to a similar low-calorie programme being offered by the National Health Service (NHS) in 21 areas across England. 

While the NHS England’s low-calorie diet programme has had good uptake and continues to yield positive outcomes, complete meal replacement diets are not suitable for everyone. So, other approaches that promote the substantial weight loss required for remission are necessary; the NewDAWN research aims to fill this unmet need.

Over five years, Professor Jebb and her team will work with people with type 2 diabetes to develop and test different weight loss programmes. The team will identify at least four effective programmes and will train healthcare professionals to help people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes lose weight with a suitable programme. Patients may need to try more than one programme to find the most effective for their needs and lifestyle. 

“We are so excited at this opportunity to pioneer a new approach to supporting people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight, because we know that successful weight loss gives a good chance of achieving remission. 

NewDAWN is a new way of thinking about weight loss because rather than just offering one treatment, it recognises that there are many ways to lose weight, and we need to help people find the right diet for them.

If we are successful, we will have a new model of care which could help others living with obesity too,” Professor Susan Jebb said. 

If the programme is successful and cost-effective, the NHS will make it available across England.

“By partnering directly with NHS England, we have the best chance of developing something that can work in routine care, so if it is successful, it can be rapidly rolled out to improve the care of people with type 2 diabetes,” Jebb added.   

“Professor Jebb’s work has the potential to be truly life-changing for people with type 2 diabetes, and NIHR is really excited to be partnering with Diabetes UK to support this ground-breaking research. 

Being able to work alongside patients and tailor these weight loss programmes, so they work for different people is crucial as it will allow as many patients to benefit as possible,” Professor Elaine hay, Programme Director of Programme Grants for Applied Research at the NIHR said. 

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