Study: Reversing Type 2 Diabetes Is Possible

Type 2 diabetes has always been viewed as a progressive and chronic disease. However, a recent clinical trial by Virta Health reported diabetes reversal in many patients. The results of this study have the potential to change everything we know about how to treat type 2 diabetes.

Key takeaways:
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    Type 2 diabetes has always been viewed as a progressive and chronic disease.
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    Virta Health is challenging the status quo with the results of a new trial.
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    The latest study showed diabetes reversal in 20% of patients.
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    These results may change what we know about diabetes treatment.

A change in the status quo

America is in the midst of a type 2 diabetes epidemic. More than 30 million Americans live with the disease every day, costing the U.S. over $300 billion annually. Furthermore, costs continue to rise even though patient outcomes do not improve. Many patients have trouble adhering to their medication schedule. For example, a study showed that as few as 34% of people with diabetes take their insulin as prescribed.

Conventional wisdom says that type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that worsens over a lifetime, but a recent clinical trial challenged that belief. Virta Health presented the results of a groundbreaking trial at the American Diabetes Association’s 82nd Scientific Session.

The study showed long-term health improvements even with the reduction or elimination of diabetes medications and demonstrated that type 2 diabetes reversal is possible. While most health-related studies follow patients for less than a year, Virta Health’s clinical trial ran for five years.

The trial showed the following outcomes:

  • Sustained blood sugar control.
  • Medication deprescription: participants reduced diabetes prescription use by nearly 50% — including insulin injections.
  • Clinically significant weight loss: average weight decreased by 7.6%, exceeding the 5% benchmark normally viewed as successful in a lifestyle intervention.
  • Cardiometabolic health improvements: better triglycerides and HDL cholesterol, lower inflammation markers, and improvements in chronic kidney disease.
  • Weight loss maintenance: 6% weight loss sustained after five years, as opposed to the NIH’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which only reported a 2% sustained loss.
  • Remission of diabetes: 20% of patients saw complete remission of their diabetes, meaning healthy A1C levels with no diabetes medications.
  • Previous Virta Health studies also showed improvements in depression, sleep quality, and knee pain.

One of the most challenging parts of treating diabetes is getting patients to stick to their health regimen. It requires constant monitoring, a change in diet and lifestyle, and the building of new habits, which can cause stress with family and friends. The gold standard of lifestyle interventions has been the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which reported only a 13% success rate in getting participants to stick to the program after one year. With Virta Health’s program, nearly half of the participants were still committed after five years.

These results contradict the prevailing assumption that type 2 diabetes is chronic and progressive. Dr. Alan Moses, the Virta advisor, said, “Virta’s patients are helping redefine what long-term success can look like in type 2 diabetes care. The patient outcomes set a new standard for real-world applications of diabetes treatment.” Virta is still enrolling patients and has a goal to reverse diabetes in 100 million people by 2025.

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