Research Matters

Lifestyle Changes Proven Effective in Controlling and Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

Lifestyle Changes Proven Effective in Controlling and Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

Study outcomes will help establish specialized diabetes clinics in Qatar

According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically across the globe in the past three decades. Statistics show that Middle Eastern and North African populations are more at risk of developing the disease due to various factors such as genetic risk, increased obesity rates, rapid urbanization, and lack of exercise.

In Qatar, type 2 diabetes affects about one in five adults. Over time, it can result in several serious complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness, and reduces life expectancy and quality of life. To ensure the wellbeing of its citizens and future generations, and lower the alarming rates of type 2 diabetes prevalence, Qatar developed a National Strategy to Prevent Diabetes, which lists research as one of its six pillars in the crucial fight against the disease.

As the leading research-funding arm in the region, Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) has enabled several research projects focusing on diabetes, one of which has revealed that type 2 diabetes can be successfully reversed by making lifestyle changes.

The project titled, “Diabetes Intervention Accentuating Diet and Enhancing Metabolism (DIADEM): randomized controlled trial assessing the impact of low calorie diet and activity on body weight and glycaemia in diabetes (NPRP8-912-3-192)” received funding under the 8th cycle of QNRF’s National Priorities Research Program.

Led by Professor Shahrad Taheri from Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar, the study found that type 2 diabetes and its associated risks can be reversed through dietary change, physical activity, and behavioral changes without the need for medication or weight loss surgery. Prof. Taheri was joined by researchers from Hamad Medical Corporation's Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), Primary Health Care Corp (PHCC), Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA), and Cornell University, USA.

The research team conducted a parallel-group, randomized controlled trial that involved 158 adults belonging to the MENA countries, all aged from 18-50 years, who had developed diabetes within the past three years. These participants were then randomly divided into two groups, the intensive lifestyle intervention group and the medical care control group. Members of the lifestyle intervention group had their diets changed to low-energy meal replacements including soups, shakes, and meal bars for three months in the first phase. This was followed by the reintroduction of normal food and physical exercise, along with behavioral changes to help the participants enter the weight-loss maintenance phase. At the same time, the control group participants were treated with the usual diabetes care based on existing clinical guidelines.

After a year-long study, the research project discovered that more than 60% of members of the lifestyle intervention group had their type 2 diabetes successfully reversed, as well as experiencing an average weight loss of 12 kg. What is remarkable about this outcome was that members of the group were not administered any diabetes medication at all. In contrast, for the group on clinical treatment, diabetes reversal was observed in only 12% of the participants, with an average weight loss of only 4 kg.

According to Prof. Taheri, the findings from DIADEM-1 are not only applicable to Qatar but also globally, so that they are set to revolutionize treatment in curbing the alarming prevalence of the disease among the world’s population. Therefore, the research has received global acclaim and has been published in the prestigious Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, the highest-ranking in the field. The journal is the highest impact health-related publication to be directly informed by research conducted in Qatar.

Owing to the successful outcomes of the project, Qatar will be establishing type 2 diabetes reversal clinics in the near future, with the aim of transforming the research into clinical practice. This will not only greatly benefit patients but also substantially reduce pressure on health care budgets in Qatar.

To learn more about the clinics, visit

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