Research funded by Diabetes UK has revealed that going into remission of Type 2 diabetes through a low-calorie, weight management programme can restore the pancreas to normal size.
People with Type 2 diabetes have a pancreas that is around 20–30% smaller than people without the condition, and it is more irregular in shape. But it wasn’t clear if this is the cause of Type 2 or a result of having the condition, or whether it’s possible to restore the pancreas to a healthy size and shape.
DiRECT, the trial funded by Diabetes UK, has shown that more than a third (36%) of people with Type 2 diabetes who took part in the low-calorie, weight management programme, were still in remission two years later.
Researchers tracked changes in the pancreases of 64 participants in the trial. Using MRI scanners, they measured the volume, shape and amount of fat in the pancreases, and follow these changes over two years.
The researchers observed for the first time that the size of the pancreas in people who were in remission for two years had increased by 20% – returning to almost normal size. The researchers also saw that, along with a drop in the amount of fat in the pancreas, the very irregular borders of the pancreas returned to normal.
In people who didn’t go into remission, their pancreas didn’t increase in volume to the same extent, and they showed very little change in pancreas shape.
Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University, who led this work, said: “It will be enormously encouraging for anyone with Type 2 diabetes to learn that their small pancreas can return to normal size. Knowing what a treatment actually does inside the body is both motivating and reassuring.”
The findings were presented at the virtual European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in September.