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Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

By Sonya Collins
WebMD Feature

It sounds too good to be true: reversing type 2 diabetes through exercise and healthy eating.

While certain lifestyle changes are key to managing diabetes, whether you can actually turn back time so that it's like you never had diabetes is a different matter. That depends on how long you've had the condition, how severe it is, and your genes.

Make Changes That Count

"The term 'reversal' is used when people can go off medication but still must engage in a lifestyle program in order to stay off," says Ann Albright, PhD, RD. She's the director of diabetes translation at the CDC.

Shedding extra pounds and keeping them off can help you better control your blood sugar.

For some people, reaching a healthier weight will mean taking fewer medications, or in rarer cases, no longer needing those medications at all.

Losing 5% to 10% of your body weight and building up to 150 minutes of exercise a week may help you to slow or stop the progress of type 2 diabetes.

"If you sit [inactive] most of the day, 5 or 10 minutes is going to be great," Albright says. "Walk to your mailbox. Do something that gets you moving, knowing that you're looking to move towards 30 minutes most days of the week."

The Proof

In one study, people with type 2 diabetes exercised for 175 minutes a week, limited their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 per day, and got weekly counseling and education on these lifestyle changes.

Within a year, about 10% got off their diabetes medications or improved to the point where their blood sugar level was no longer in the diabetes range, and was instead classified as prediabetes.

Results were best for those who lost the most weight or who started the program with less severe or newly diagnosed diabetes. Fifteen percent to 20% of these people were able to stop taking their diabetes medications.

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