The idea that type 2 diabetes can be reversible has been gaining strength in the research community but, until now, the mechanisms that drive this remission were not known. Now, a study carried out by researchers at Yale University in New Haven (USA) has unraveled the mechanism by which caloric restriction leads to the reversal of type 2 diabetes in experiments performed with mice.
According to scientists, only 3 days with a diet very low in calories (a human level would be less than 800 calories a day) were enough to reverse Type 2 diabetes markers in diabetic rodents. Restricted calories in rat diets that showed the equivalent of all the characteristics of type 2 diabetes in humans, which are nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hyperglycemia, obesity and hyperinsulinemia (when the amount of insulin in the blood is greater than what is considered normal).
The restricted diets contained a quarter of the normal caloric intake, and the rats were subjected to this type of diet for 3 days. At that time, the team used a new technique, which they themselves developed, that allowed them to examine a series of metabolic changes that cause the liver to produce excess glucose.
After 3 days, the blood glucose levels of the animals decreased rapidly . In addition, they were able to reveal additional details of exactly why this was happening:
“Using this approach to comprehensively interrogate the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats , we show that a combination of three mechanisms is responsible for the rapid reversal of hyperglycemia after a very low calorie diet, ” says Gerald I. Shulman, co-author of the work published by the journal Cell Metabolism.
Three investment mechanisms
Thus, the researchers found three mechanisms by which this type of diet drastically reduced blood sugar concentrations in rodents:
-The diet slowed down the rate at which lactate and amino acids were converted into glucose.
-It slowed the rate at which the liver glycogen was converted to glucose.
-It decreased the fat content of the liver, which, in turn, made the liver more sensitive to insulin.
These three mechanisms together promoted the reduction of glucose in an independent manner; the authors clarify, since the body weight of the rodents was not affected during the entire study.
However, before declaring that type 2 diabetes has a cure, we must find out if this same method would also work in humans, so the next step will be to conduct a human trial.
“Our findings, if translated to humans, would suggest that [these three mechanisms] could be potential therapeutic targets to reduce plasma glucose in those with type 2 diabetes,” explains Rachel J. Perry, co-author of the study.
As we can see, the research is really promising, but we are still in the data collection stage. If we can get confirmation of success in humans, it will represent a ray of hope for those who live with the disease because, until recently, it was thought that type 2 diabetes could only get worse over time or, at best, treat with the proper medication.