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NHS 'Soups and Shakes' diet to be rolled out across the whole of England

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An NHS 'soups and shakes' diet is being rolled out to more areas of the UK, with the potential to help thousands more people living with type 2 diabetes to go in to remission.

NHS England has announced plans to roll out its new ‘Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission’ programme across the whole of England, giving everyone who is eligible the chance to put their type 2 diabetes in remission. The programme is inspired by the striking results of our DiRECT study. 

What happens on the NHS soups and shake programme? 

In September 2020, NHS England launched a pilot programme to provide a low-calorie diet treatment for people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and living with overweight or obesity. Over 4,500 people have since taken part in the pilot.  

The findings show the programme can help people to lose an average of 11kg over the 12-month programme. And the results confirmed the treatment could successfully be delivered within the NHS through digital and face-to-face support.  

Following the pilot’s success, the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission programme will be made available to everyone with type 2 diabetes who meets the criteria and lives in England by March 2024.  

This exciting news follows the latest results from our DiRECT study, which revealed that for some people weight loss can put their type 2 diabetes into remission for at least five years.

The NHS’s Path to Remission programme wouldn’t have been possible without DiRECT and decades of ground-breaking research we’ve funded, alongside our work with the NHS to make sure the results of research rapidly benefit people with type 2 diabetes.   

Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: 

“We are thrilled to see that NHS England’s Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme will be rolled out across the whole of England, giving thousands more people the chance to put their type 2 diabetes into remission.  

“Remission from type 2 diabetes can be life-changing but we know weight loss is really hard and getting the right support is critical. For those who 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.   

“Today’s important announcement is the result of over a decade of research funded by Diabetes UK, and we are proud that our ground-breaking DiRECT trial – which recently reported its five-year findings – has been central to making this possible. The expansion of this programme will offer even more people with type 2 diabetes a better chance of a healthier future.”  

Low-calorie diet for type 2 diabetes remission

Inspired by our DiRECT study, the year-long NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission programme offers people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes nutritionally balanced, low-calorie meal replacement products (soups and shakes) for up to 12 weeks to kick-start weight loss, with careful support from expert healthcare professionals.

After this, people receive support to reintroduce healthy, solid foods and maintain their weight loss. This includes help to increase physical activity levels. People can access support through: 

  • Face-to-face one-to-ones 
  • Group sessions 
  • Digitally/remotely via an app, online or over the phone. 

Eligible people will be referred to the programme by their GPs and monitored by them throughout. 

How to take part 

The programme is set to expand and cover the whole of England by March 2024. To be referred, you will need to fit the following criteria: 

  • Aged 18 to 65 years
  • Have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the last 6 years. This is because the evidence shows that remission is more likely the closer you are to your diagnosis
  • BMI of 27kg/m² or higher if you’re White, or 25kg/m² if you’re from an ethnic minority group
  • Have had an HbA1c measurement taken within the last 12 months and the results were 43-87 mmol/mol, if on diabetes medication, or 48-87 mmol/mol, if not on diabetes medication. 

If you live in England and think you might be able to take part, speak to your GP.  

Currently people can access similar programmes in Scotland. “Soups and shakes” weight loss programmes have also been piloted in Northern Ireland and Wales and we want to see services becoming more widely available there soon.   

DiRECTing new treatments 

Remission can be truly life-changing, so we’re delighted that many people in England will now have access to the support they need to lose weight – helping to shed fat inside the liver and pancreas - and giving the chance to put their type 2 diabetes into remission. This important moment in type 2 diabetes care has been years in the making.  

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes once meant the start of a lifelong journey of learning to live with a serious condition, but our research changed what is possible.

It all started in 2008 when we funded the first-ever study to test if losing weight through a low-calorie diet could help some people to lose weight and put their type 2 into remission. Exciting early results led us to award our largest ever research grant to the landmark DiRECT study.  

Recent DiRECT results revealed it’s possible for some people to stay in type 2 diabetes remission for at least five years. And we’ve supported the ReTUNE study too, which has shown a similar approach could help some people with type 2 and lower bodyweights.  

But we know not everyone taking part in research studies or the NHS programme has been able to lose weight or go into remission. Our DiRECT scientists have been studying exactly why remission might be possible for some people and not others.  

If you are not able to put your type 2 diabetes into remission or if you regain weight and go out of remission on the programme it’s not a sign of failure. And there are still major health benefits to even small amounts of weight loss and following a healthy lifestyle.  

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity said:  

“Research is clear that weight loss where indicated goes a long way to helping people stay well and avoiding preventable illness, and in many cases it can be the trigger for putting type 2 diabetes into remission. 

“So I am delighted that thousands more people are making use of this programme with thousands more set to benefit across England in the coming year. 

“This programme is also the latest example of the NHS effectively deploying evidence-based treatments to help people with type 2 diabetes live well. Obesity is a significant factor and cause of several serious diseases, so the NHS is always here to help people to lose weight when necessary, and live healthier lives.” 

What’s next? 

There are still lots of unanswered questions about remission of type 2 diabetes and we know the NHS Path to Remission programme isn’t suitable or available to everyone with the condition. That’s why we’re continuing to invest in research to discover more about remission and find new ways to help more people get there. 

This includes the NewDAWN project. This £2.2 million project aims to develop a new NHS support service that will offer a range of effective weight loss diet options for people with overweight or obesity and newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The aim is to help everyone find a diet that’s right for them so that they have the best possible chance of going into remission.  

You can read more about NewDAWN and find more information about remission on our website. You can also call our helpline on 0345 123 2399, for guidance and advice. 

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