Diabetes patients can restore their pancreas to a healthy shape and size by losing weight, a landmark study has revealed.
Type 2 diabetics have a pancreas which is an irregular shape and up to a third smaller than a healthy one.
But last night British researchers revealed that the organ can be restored to a normal size if diabetes patients go into remission by losing around two stone.
Scientists at Newcastle University found type 2 diabetics can restore their pancreas to a healthy shape if they go into remission by losing around two stone. (Stock image)
Nearly four million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes, which is strongly linked to obesity.
The illness develops when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, the hormone which regulates blood sugar, or the insulin does not work properly.
Until today, it was not clear if a shrunken pancreas was among the causes of type 2 diabetes, or was a result of having the condition.
But the trial has shown conclusively that a shrunken pancreas is linked to excess fat, and can return to normal if diabetics lose around two stone (ten to 15kg).
As well as producing hormones to regulate blood sugar, a healthy pancreas produces enzymes to break down food.
Alongside producing hormones to regulate blood sugar, a healthy pancreas produces enzymes to break down food. (Stock image)
And could hot baths cut the risk?
Taking a hot bath at least four times a week may cut your risk of diabetes.
Researchers found that those who do are slimmer, have lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels.
They concluded: ‘Our results indicate that daily heat exposure through hot-tub bathing has beneficial influences on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes.’
The research, led by Kohnodai Hospital in Japan, was based on a study of 1,300 patients.
They were divided into four groups based on how many baths they took a week.
Those who bathed at least four times a week had slimmer waists, a lower body mass index and lower blood glucose levels than those who did not take at least one bath a week.
Lucy Chambers of Diabetes UK said the study raised more questions than answers, adding: ‘It could be that people who bathe more frequently have a healthier lifestyle – perhaps they are more physically active – we just don’t know from the limited data.
‘That shouldn’t stop you from running a bath and enjoying some relaxing ‘me’ time.’
Experts said the new findings add to mounting evidence that those with type 2 diabetes should be urged to follow radical low-calorie diets.
Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University, who led the study, said the findings will be ‘enormously encouraging’ for patients.
Earlier this month the NHS announced that thousands of type 2 diabetics will be offered a three-month 850 calorie soup and shake daily diet to beat the disease.
It followed the success of the DiRECT trial, a project led by Newcastle and Glasgow Universities involving almost 300 individuals with type 2 diabetes.
In 2018 the study found that half of patients put on a strict soups-and-shakes diet of no more than 850 calories a day, aiming to lose 15kg, went into remission from diabetes.
The same team has now found that the pancreas size of those who had been in remission for two years increased by 20 per cent – almost to normal size. There was also a decrease in the amount of fat in the pancreas, and the irregular shape of the organ returned to normal.
Experts said that weight loss reduces the amount of fat in the pancreas.
This restores the whole organ and helps the recovery of beta cells – which produce insulin.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson of Diabetes UK, said: ‘Our DiRECT trial has revolutionised thinking about type 2 diabetes – we no longer consider it a life-long condition for everyone, and know remission is possible for some.’
The findings were presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Conference, and are due to be published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable autoimmune disease, but type 2 is mostly caused by poor diet. Britain’s obesity epidemic has led to soaring levels of type 2.
Professor Taylor added: ‘The solution to the problem of type 2 diabetes lies in the hands of politicians. Legislation on supply of high calorie foods is essential.’