Why don't we just call dieting what it is: cruel and unusual. Who wants to gnaw at a leaf of kale when fried chicken, frosted donuts, and cheese pizza exist? No one, that's who. As the saying goes, it's a difficult job, but somebody's gotta do it — and that's exactly what 65-year-old Isobel Murray of North Ayshire, Scotland, did.
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Instead of whining about how hard it is to diet (as we often — OK, always — do), Murray made a life-changing decision to participate in a groundbreaking research trial that helped her lose more than 56 pounds and reverse her type 2 diabetes!
"I've got my life back," she told the BBC.
Successful Weight Loss on an All-Liquid Diet
Before the study, Murray had to take medication to keep her diabetes in check, and her blood sugar levels were still on the rise. Her doctors continued to increase her medication dosage — until she joined the trial that put her on an all-liquid diet for 17 weeks.
If that sounds extreme, that's because it is: To participate in the trial, Murray was asked to cut all solid food from her diet for three to five months and instead drink four protein-packed shakes and soups each day. To make sure she stuck with it, she even ate meals apart from her husband, Jim, instead choosing to sip on her 200-calorie soups and shakes alone. But it didn't bother her; in fact, she found the all-liquid diet to be easier than eating solid food.
"You don't have to think about what you eat," Murray said. "Eating normal food is the hardest bit."
According to Newsweek, the liquid meal replacements were donated by Cambridge Weight Plan, the company that produced the “perfect diet.” According to the Cambridge Weight Plan website, the shakes — which look like typical meal replacement drinks — come in a variety of flavors including Banana, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate, Fruits of the Forest, Key Lime Pie, Toffee and Walnut, Strawberry, Chocolate Orange, and Cappuccino, while soups — which the site describes as flavorful and inviting — are available in Chicken and Mushroom, Vegetable, Mushroom, Leek and Potato, Tomato and Basil, and Oriental Chili.
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes With Protein-Packed Shakes
Murray was one of 298 participants in the study, which was published in November 2017 in the Lancet. Researchers in Newcastle and Glasgow monitored the participants (149 of whom had type 2 diabetes) as they followed an all-liquid diet that provided 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months. Once participants reached healthier weights, dietitians helped reintroduce solid foods in healthy, “structured” diet plans for the remainder of the study. At the end of the trial, the participants had lost an average of more than 20 pounds each. Even better, 68 participants had reversed their diabetes without the use of medication!
"Our findings suggest that even if you have had type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible," study co-author and University of Glasgow professor Michael Lean said in a statement.
According to Lancet, 68 participants were able to put their diabetes into remission without the use of medication after just one year. Even better news: Those who participated lost an average of more than 20 pounds!
It should be noted, however, that this specific diet isn't safe without medical supervision.
"Usually I tell my patients to restrict their calories to 500 calories less than whatever they’re doing. Getting below 1,000 calories is virtually impossible for most patients on a day-to-day basis," Dr. Sona Shah, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health, told Newsweek. "I think it’s a very hard thing to adhere to."
Continuing Hope for People With Diabetes
There’s more: A year after the trial, a whopping 46 percent of participants who had type 2 diabetes were in remission.
"Before we started this line of work, doctors and specialists regarded type 2 as irreversible," study co-author and Newcastle University professor Roy Taylor told the BBC. "But if we grasp the nettle and get people out of their dangerous state, they can get remission of diabetes."
While this is good news, it should be noted that this isn't a cure. If the study participants return to their original weights, their diabetes will most likely return as well. Because the trial only observed people who had been diagnosed with type 2 within the last six years, there's no certainty that this diet will work for those who've had the condition for longer.
Researchers are planning to continue to follow study participants for four more years to see how they progress.