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NHS soup and shake diet helps people with type 2 diabetes into remission

An NHS soup and shake 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. More than 2,000 people with type 2 diabetes have already benefitted from the NHS low-calorie diet programme, which supports people to lose weight, inspired by our DiRECT study. 


Low-calorie diet for type 2 diabetes remission

Inspired by our ground-breaking Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) study, the year-long NHS soup and shake low-calorie diet programme is designed to help people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes lose weight and put their condition into remission.

NHS England launched a pilot of this programme in September 2020 and has today announced early findings from the first 2,000 people with type 2 diabetes who took part. 

The pilot is still happening but so far, they’ve seen people lose an average of 7.2kg each (over one stone) in the first month of the programme. After three months, this increased to around 13.4kg (over two stones). Importantly, the early results show that people kept this weight off in the following months. 

We don’t yet know how many people have been able to go into remission from type 2 diabetes through the programme. But we know from the DiRECT study that remission is closely tied to weight loss and that almost half of people who’d lost a similar amount of weight in the DiRECT trial were in remission after one year. 

What happens on the NHS soup and shake programme? 

For three months, people with type 2 diabetes are given low-calorie total diet replacement products, such as soups and shakes. After this, they’re supported to reintroduce foods that are part of a healthy, balanced diet and maintain their weight loss. They are invited to have virtual meetings with expert clinicians and take part in group sessions with other people with type 2 diabetes.
Alongside making changes to their diet, people taking part in the programme are also supported to increase their exercise levels. 

The programme is currently available in the following areas:

  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw 
  • Humber Coast and Vale 
  • Greater Manchester 
  • Frimley  
  • Gloucestershire 
  • Derbyshire 
  • Birmingham and Solihull 
  • Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes 
  • North East London 
  • North Central London. 

Following its success so far, the programme will now be rolled out more widely across England, with 11 more locations launching in 2022. These are:  

  • North East & North Cumbria 
  • West Yorkshire
  • Lancashire & South Cumbria
  • Nottingham & Nottinghamshire 
  • Black Country
  • Somerset 
  • Bristol
  • North Somerset & South Gloucestershire 
  • Mid & South Essex
  • South West London
  • Kent & Medway 
  • Sussex

How to be referred

To be referred to the programme, 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.   
  • 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:
    • HbA1c of 43-87 mmol/mol, if on diabetes medication.
    • HbA1c of 48-87 mmol/mol, if not on diabetes medication.

If you are interested in taking part in the programme, speak to your GP. You can find more information about remission on our website, and you can call our helpline for guidance and advice.

From lab to life 

We’re determined to make remission a reality for as many people as possible, so the expansion of the NHS low-calorie diet programme is fantastic news. 

Chris Askew OBE, our Chief Executive said:

“We’re delighted to see the expansion of NHS England’s free weight loss programme for people living with type 2 diabetes. Since its launch, this low-calorie diet pilot, inspired by our ground-breaking DiRECT trial, has helped thousands of people across England access the support they need to lose weight effectively and potentially put their type 2 diabetes in remission.
“Remission can be life-changing, offering people a better chance of a healthier future. Today’s announcement means that many more people across England who are living with type 2 diabetes and overweight will have the chance to get the support they need to go into remission. 

“Here at Diabetes UK, we're also committed to funding research to find other effective ways to put type 2 into remission, ensuring more people have the chance to go into remission in a way that works best for them.” 

We’ve supported research into type 2 remission for the last 14 years. Our far-sighted research funding back in 2008 gave us the first ever evidence that a low-calorie diet approach could help some people to stop taking their type 2 diabetes medication and put their condition into remission. And later we awarded our largest ever research grant to the landmark DiRECT study.

We know there are still lots of questions about remission. And we’re committed to investing in research to find the answers that will change lives.

We’re continuing to fund DiRECT to follow participants for a total of seven years. We want to understand how to help people maintain their weight loss and stay in remission, and how remission benefits health and well-being over the longer-term.

We’re also funding the ReTUNE trial, to see if a similar approach to remission could be effective in people with a lower bodyweight. The early results are showing real promise and we’re looking forward to hearing more when the study ends later this year.

Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to fund scientists to build our knowledge of type 2 diabetes remission and find new ways to help more people get there. 

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