A top nutritionist has slammed the NHS soup and shake diet which scientists this week hailed for reversing diabetes.
The plan, which involves consuming 800 calories a day for up to five months, can put sufferers into remission for at least five years.
Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of nutrition company ZOE, told MailOnline that the extreme diet can help ‘a very small number of highly motivated individuals’ to reverse their diabetes.
However, it is ‘completely the wrong message’ to give people who are desperately trying to slim down that they can use ultra-processed substitutes to do so, said the author of Sunday Times best-sellers Food for Life and Spoon Fed.
Meal replacement shakes and soups are classed as ultra-processed foods as they are made from ingredients not found in a typical kitchen, such as sweeteners.
Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of nutrition company ZOE, said it’s ‘completely the wrong message’ to give people who are desperately trying to slim down
In a bid to get a grip on the UK’s diabetes epidemic, researchers at Newcastle and Glasgow universities, backed by Diabetes UK, launched the DiRECT trial six years ago.
It saw some 149 volunteers with type 2 diabetes consume around 800 calories a day of soups and shakes.
The landmark trial showed that remission from type 2 diabetes is possible through diet change, with 36 per cent of participants free of the condition two years later.
In an extension to the study, 95 volunteers — around half of whom were in remission — received support to maintain their weight loss over the following three years.
Results from that trial, released this week, revealed that 11 of those who were already in remission (23 per cent) remained so at the end of the study and had lost 8.9kg (19.6lbs), on average.
READ MORE: I had type 2 diabetes – but I REVERSED the condition eight years ago by losing 3½ stone on ‘soup and shakes’ diet
But Professor Spector said: ‘Out of the original 149 participants, only 11 managed to reverse their diabetes.
‘The positive thing here is that this research does show that it is possible to get a very small number of highly motivated individuals into remission via calorie control.
‘However, 800 kcals of soups and shakes definitely isn’t suitable for the majority of people.
‘At ZOE, we believe that using real food is the answer to long-term health, not these low-calorie, ultra-processed food (UPF) substitutes.
‘It’s completely the wrong message to give people whose poor diet got them into trouble in the first place, [that they can use] a UPF diet to fix it.’
The researchers behind the study say their results provide further evidence that lifestyle changes, rather than medication, can help beat the disease, described last week as a ‘rapidly escalating crisis’ in the UK.
They believe losing weight and keeping it off is key to curing the serious condition, which has spiralled alongside obesity rates over the last decade.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or if the insulin it makes doesn’t work properly — leading to high blood sugar levels.
It affects roughly 4.5million people in Britain and 37million in the US. Although heavily driven by obesity, roughly 15 per cent of all sufferers are of ‘normal weight’.
Leading charities have warned that rates will skyrocket in the coming years. The NHS already spends £10billion a year treating diabetes — around a tenth of its budget.
More than 2,000 people have started treatment on NHS England’s low-calorie diet programme, offered at around half of health boards in England.
Along with the meal replacements, those following the plan also receive support from a nurse or dietician to reintroduce healthy foods and maintain weight loss while medications for type 2 diabetes and blood pressure were stopped.
The full expansion of the scheme is expected to be completed by next March, with doctors hopeful it will save tens of thousands from developing the condition each year.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK which funded the study, said the findings confirm that it is possible to stay in remission long-term.
She said: ‘For those who put type 2 diabetes into remission, it can be life-changing, offering a better chance of a healthier future.
‘For those that aren’t able to go into remission, losing weight can still lead to major health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels, and reduced risk of serious diabetes complications such as heart attack and stroke.’
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, diabetes and obesity chief at NHS England, said: ‘The NHS is already making the best use of this research for patients through our low calorie diet programme, which has seen fantastic early results.
‘We plan to expand the scheme nationwide, to give thousands more the chance to shed the pounds and improve their health.’
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition which causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.
More than 4million people in the UK are thought to have some form of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and you may be more likely to get it if it’s in the family.
The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone which controls absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.
Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.
Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.
Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.
It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.
Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.
Source: NHS Choices; Diabetes.co.uk