Skip to main content

What is Diabetes Remission? Understanding The Meaning, Expectations, and Methods To Achieve It

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 22, 2024

Diabetes remains a global concern, with an estimated 10.5% of the adult population having it in 2021. Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes yet — but remission is possible.

Studies show that people can achieve remission of type 2 diabetes with the proper methods. The2017 DiRECT study provided evidence that proved the possibility of diabetes remission with a low-calorie diet. There is also evidence about the effectiveness of bariatric surgery in achieving diabetes remission, with an estimated success of 75.8%-92%.

Now, what is diabetes remission exactly? Learn the meaning of diabetes remission here, along with its relation to weight loss, how long diabetes remission can last, and the different ways to achieve it!

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes remission occurs when a diabetic person has blood sugar levels below the standard diabetes range without taking medications.
  • Diabetes remission is not a 'cure'. There is no cure for diabetes yet.
  • Remission for Type 1 diabetes is impossible since the pancreas already lost the ability to produce insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes remission is possible through weight loss, intensive dietary changes, and bariatric surgery.
  • Even if remission does not occur, several health benefits from weight loss can help diabetic people in the long run.
  • Remission during prediabetes is relatively easy.
  • Diabetes remission is not permanent. If not maintained properly, the disease still has the chance to return.
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when a person's blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. It is a highly prevalent health disease that does not discriminate, affecting people of all genders and ages.

IDF Diabetes Atlas reports a continuous global increase in the prevalence of diabetes. By 2021, approximately 537 million adults around the globe will be diagnosed with this condition. That number is predicted to rise to 784 million by 2045.

There are several forms of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes. Consistent maintenance and treatment are required since it's a lifelong condition. However, you can manage it through medication and lifestyle changes.

Diabetes is a deadly disease if not treated or taken seriously. It can cause various health consequences, such as stroke, kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks, and lower limb amputation.

What is Diabetes Remission?

Now, what is diabetes remission? Or perhaps, when is diabetes in remission?

Diabetes remission pertains to having a blood sugar level below the standard and established threshold for diabetes without taking any medication. People diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes can achieve this.

However, don’t consider diabetes remission as a ‘cure’ for the disease. While you are not displaying any signs of the condition, it is still technically present since the genetic and biochemical defects remain.

As of now, no cure can completely heal diabetes. Fortunately, hope is not lost just yet! Recent studies now indicate that type 2 diabetes can go into remission.

People seeking diabetes remission must closely consult their healthcare provider to discuss treatment options. Remission is likely achievable during the first few years after detection and diagnosis. The pre-diabetic stage also makes remission relatively easy.

Among the treatment options that professionals would recommend during a diabetes remission are:

  • Intensive dietary changes
  • Weight loss or management programs
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Constant monitoring and support

As mentioned, diabetes remission is possible. However, is that hope extendable to all types of diabetes? Unfortunately, not all diabetes types can be put into remission.

Particularly, remission is not possible in those with Type 1 diabetes. Learn why in the following section.

📚 Clinical Definition

Diabetes remission is when a person’s HbA1c levels are below 48mmol/mol on two specific occasions — not taking diabetes medications and at least six months apart.

Why Can’t Type 1 Diabetes Be Put Into Remission?

It is necessary to emphasize that when discussing diabetes remission or reversal, Type 2 diabetes is often explicitly specified. Not Type 1 diabetes.

So far, Type 1 diabetes is an irreversible health condition that you cannot put into the remission phase. Despite losing weight or changing your lifestyle, Type 1 diabetes remission is still likely impossible.

In Type 1 diabetes, the person's immune system mistakenly destroys the pancreas as an autoimmune reaction. It permanently damages the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin — a hormone that controls the blood sugar.

It won’t matter even if you lose weight since your pancreas loses the ability to secrete insulin, which happens with type 1 diabetes.

It is vital to recognize and acknowledge that achieving and sustaining diabetes remission may not be possible for everyone. Aside from having type 1 diabetes, there are other possible reasons why the remission would fail. That includes the intensive dietary change posing dangers to their healthor developing complications.

❗ Reminder

Just because you have type 1 diabetes doesn't mean you should not attempt to lose weight. While diabetes remission is not on the table, remember that maintaining a healthy weight can help you live a longer life. That stands even if you have type 1 diabetes.

Avoiding obesity while diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aids you in improving your insulin sensitivity. That helps reduce the risk of developing diabetes-related complications like kidney disease and heart conditions.

How Does Losing Weight Put Your Type 2 Diabetes Into Remission?

What is remission in type 2 diabetes? If you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, weight loss can generally help you live a longer and healthier life.

The more weight you shed, the greater the health benefits you will experience! Now, how does weight loss relate to diabetes remission?

Many patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes have increased weight settled on their stomachs. The build-up of fat in this area stops specific organs, like the liver and pancreas, from functioning correctly, leading to diabetes.

Also, note that the key component in developing Type 2 diabetes is decreased insulin sensitivity. This type of diabetes typically starts with insulin resistance. It is a condition wherein the cells of the body do not respond well or properly to the communication signals from insulin.

Losing the weight on the stomach can allow the pancreas and liver to function effectively again. Shedding weight by undergoing necessary lifestyle changes or medical management can return your blood sugar levels to a non-diabetic range!

Shedding around 15 kgs can significantly increase your chances of achieving diabetes remission.

📔 Health Note

Not everyone can manage to gain control over their diabetes and put it into remission. Although, losing at least 5% of your body weight can still positively impact your health.

Weight loss for people with diabetes offers them many health benefits, including lowered cholesterol, increased insulin sensitivity, improved blood sugar levels, and reduced insulin resistance.

Can Weight Loss Reverse Prediabetes?

If you are pre-diabetic and are overweight or obese, losing weight and getting regular physical activity can aid in returning your blood glucose levels to normal range.

The American Diabetes Association recommends losing 7% to 10% of your body weight to prevent the disease from progressing further. Squeeze in regular physical activity to lose and shed a few pounds. That can help you reverse your prediabetes diagnosis before it becomes a stronger type of diabetes.

Since the possibility of remission in different types of diabetes has been discussed, it is only appropriate to know how long diabetes can stay in remission. Is it permanent?

Is Diabetes Remission Permanent?

Diabetes remission is not permanent. It's not a once-for-all event that will permanently stick with you!

How long does diabetes remission last? Remission can last for several years, with some reports stating that it lasts up to 15 years.

Since diabetes remission is not permanent, you must be careful not to lose it.

To keep your diabetes in remission, you must maintain it, as there is always a chance it might return. It's not a one-off and is instead a lifelong process.

How Do People With Type 2 Diabetes Achieve Remission?

While diabetes remission is not possible for everyone, it remains an exciting option for some. Aiming for remission through weight loss normalizes high-fat levels inside the pancreas and liver.

Now, how can diabetes be put into remission? Patients can try four main ways: low-calorie diet, low-carbohydrate diet, exercise, and bariatric surgery. These methods help achieve weight loss and return blood sugar levels to normal.

1. Low-Calorie Diet

A study,Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), researched and tested whether restricting calories in one’s diet can lead to diabetes remission. The study participants were asked to eat around 850 calories daily for three months straight.

It was followed by a 2-8 weeks food reintroduction program and a weight loss maintenance program afterward. Throughout the study, there were monthly check-ins and encouragement to undergo more physical activity.

After a year, 46% of study participants who did the low-calorie diet achieved diabetes remission. This result proves that diabetes remission is possible through this diet.

However, because this type of diet is extreme. It requires the guidance and support of a professional to incorporate it safely. Optimal control of your calories is also needed.

2. Low-Carbohydrate Diet

A standard model for a weight loss diet program suggests that reducing carbohydrate intake can reduce hunger and decrease fat storage.

Limiting the amount of carbohydrates in your body and diet, either as starch or sugar, can significantly benefit your health. It will also restrict the glucose level of your body.

A low-carbohydrate diet allows you to lose and manage your weight. As a result, it may reduce the body's need for diabetes medications and insulin.

Though, it is recommended not to jump on a low-carbohydrate diet alone. Consult a professional to ensure this diet won't negatively affect your health.

A good example of a low-carb diet is the Keto Diet. It is a strict low-carb, fat-rich diet that has been utilized for centuries to treat specific health conditions, including diabetes.

3. Exercise

To lose weight quicker, get more physically active. More physical activity can improve your health. However, it is tough to lose enough weight to put your diabetes into remission with exercise alone.

The solution is to combine exercise with dietary changes. That will undoubtedly increase your chances of achieving diabetes remission.

Aerobic exercises should be a great place to start if you’re new to exercising. That includes cycling, jogging, walking, dancing, and swimming. You may also use a fitness machine like a stair stepper or a treadmill.

Getting at least 75-150 minutes of physical activity per week along with muscle strenghtening activities can drastically and significantly increase your chances of losing weight and boosting your overall health. Also, a modest, lower-calorie diet and a substantial step-up in exercising and burning calories can put you on the right path toward remission.

4. Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, involves significantly changing a person's digestive system to help them lose weight. Experts recommend it when exercise and diet haven't worked or when a person has severe health problems.

This surgery is also an option for patients with type 2 diabetes — specifically those with higher BMIs. According to the ASMBS or the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the surgery results in diabetes remission in about 78% of people who undergo it.

📒 Related Articles

To learn more about weight management, check out some of our articles:

Summary

Diabetes Remission happens when a person's blood sugar levels are below the diagnosed diabetes range without taking diabetes medication. Since there is no permanent cure for diabetes, many diabetic patients hope this can help them in the long run.

As for how to put diabetes in remission, there are four possible ways. People can possibly achieve diabetes remission through low-calorie diet, low-carbohydrate diet, exercise, and bariatric surgery. Unfortunately, diabetes remission is only possible with prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

If you do happen to gain control over your diabetes and put it into remission, don't relax just yet! Be sure to follow your treatment plan. Your blood sugar can return to the diabetes range if you're not careful enough.

FAQs on Diabetes Remission

How is diabetes remission different from diabetes reversal?

When people say 'diabetes reversal,' more often than not, they mean 'diabetes remission.' The term 'reversal' implies that the disease is completely cured. In most cases, diabetes returns, hence the preference for the term 'remission.'

What are the critical issues of diabetes remission?

Diabetes remission can offer false hope. Having hope to escape diabetes is not bad as long as you ensure that you approach your treatment in a healthy manner — by that, do not cling to unrealistic expectations.

Can diabetes be reversed with medicine or drugs?

When it comes to reversing diabetes, there is no miracle or magic pill — so products advertising themselves as such are mostly a fraud. These include dietary supplements, alternative medicines, over-the-counter drugs, and homeopathic drugs that claim to cure diabetes.

What happens after remission?

There is no definite answer about how long diabetes remission can last or how it can affect your risk of developing diabetes again. After remission, the best thing to do is to continue a healthier lifestyle.

Does being in remission prevent future complications?

By being in diabetes remission, you keep your blood sugar levels below the standard diabetes range. It also keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure down, helping lower the risk of further health complications.

Can fasting make you lose weight to help you achieve diabetes remission?

Fasting is a practical means of losing weight because it is straightforward, although it is not a mainstream treatment. If you want to try fasting, check the details with your doctor to ensure you are correctly aware and supported.

How common is diabetes remission?

While diabetes remission is not common, it is entirely possible. According to a study in Scotland, about 1 in 20 people with type 2 diabetes achieved remission.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door