NHS rolls out soup and shakes diet programme to help tackle type 2 diabetes

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Thousands of diabetics will be given access to a soup and shakes diet plan as the NHS steps up efforts to tackle a condition that costs the health service billions a year.

Some 5,000 patients will be encouraged to enrol on the weight-loss programme after NHS England said results from a trial showed almost half of people who undertook the plan saw their type 2 diabetes go into remission after a year.

As part of the year-long plan, patients who have been diagnosed with the condition in the last six years and meet other eligibility criteria will be given so-called “total diet replacement products” such as shakes and soups for three months.

Alongside this, they will be supported to increase their exercise levels, and helped to reintroduce ordinary, nutritious food to their diets, with ongoing advice from clinicians and coaches.

The diet programme will be rolled out initially to patients in 10 areas of England.

NHS England said that as well as helping people live happier, healthier lives, more action to tackle obesity and diabetes will save the health service money and free up staff time.

Earlier this summer, it was announced people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes would be able to self-refer to specialist services in a bid to curb one of the biggest risk factors in Covid-19 deaths.

A third of people who died in hospital with the virus had diabetes, according to Public Health England data, and more than 12.3 million people in the UK are at risk of developing the disease. Being overweight or obese greatly increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, said: “This is the latest example of how the NHS, through our Long-Term Plan, is rapidly adopting the latest evidence-based treatments to help people stay well, maintain a healthy weight and avoid major diseases.

“There has never been a more important time to lose weight and put their type 2 diabetes into remission, so it’s good news for thousands of people across the country that practical, supportive measures like this are increasingly available on the NHS.”

Bridget Turner, director of policy campaigns and improvement at Diabetes UK, said the programme is “an important first step” for patients to access a remission programme within the NHS.

She said: “We know that some people with type 2 diabetes want and need support from healthcare professionals to lose weight effectively, and now as these programmes are piloted across the NHS they will.

“People with type 2 diabetes who have put their diabetes into remission frequently tell us how it has changed their lives.

“We are so pleased to see that others will now have the same opportunity and hope that it won’t be too long before more remission programmes are rolled out across the country.”

The new diet plan came after a recent trial revealed body mass index (BMI) is a much more powerful risk factor for type 2 diabetes than genetics.

Most cases of the disease could either be prevented or reversed if someone’s BMI was kept below their personal cut-off point at which abnormal blood sugar levels are triggered, an expert behind the study said.

Everyone will have a different threshold which sees them at risk of becoming diabetic, explaining why some people with a healthy weight develop the condition and some who are overweight do not, Cambridge University Professor Brian Ference said.

Investigators also discovered that the length of time a person had a higher BMI did not have an impact on the risk of diabetes.

Professor Ference suggested the findings of the study could have “significant implications” for the approach to screening for, preventing, treating and even reversing the condition.

“This suggests that when people cross a certain BMI threshold, their chances of diabetes go up and stay at that same high-risk level regardless of how long they are overweight,” he said.

“You can prevent most cases of diabetes by keeping BMI below a person’s threshold.

“But it (the study) also implies something that we haven’t focused on in the past and that is we can also probably reverse most cases of diabetes if we lower somebody’s BMI aggressively below their BMI threshold relatively soon after they develop diabetes.”

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