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ReTUNE remission study preview

Diabetes UK-funded study asks if remission from type 2 diabetes is possible for people with a lower body weight.              

A scientist in a white lab cot, blue gloves and goggles looking at scientific equipment

Early results from the Diabetes UK-funded ReTUNE study show promise for people with type 2 diabetes and a body mass index (BMI) below 27. The study, expected to be completed next year, is testing if fat around the internal organs might be one of the reasons type 2 develops in people with a lower body weight. It is also looking at whether weight loss through diet can help to put their diabetes in remission.

Professor Roy Taylor, at Newcastle University, has given a sneak preview of the early findings from the ReTUNE study at this year’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference. 

ReTUNE is testing whether type 2 remission is possible for people with a lower body weight. This builds on our landmark Counterpoint and DiRECT studies, which have given hope to millions of people with type 2 diabetes who are living with obesity or overweight by showing that it is possible to put their type 2 diabetes into remission. DiRECT tested people with a BMI of 27 or over and ReTUNE is testing people with a BMI below 27.

We know that around 10% of people with type 2 diabetes have a BMI that puts them in the ‘healthy’ range. However, people with lower body weights may still store fat in places that are harmful to health. Internal fat around the pancreas and liver could be one of the reasons why these people can develop type 2 diabetes. The ReTUNE study is testing if people with a BMI below 27 can lose internal body fat and go into remission by following a low-calorie weight loss programme. 

People on the ReTUNE trial are being asked to consume 800 calories a day (from soups, shakes and non-starchy vegetables) for up to two weeks while being supervised by a medical team. After this, they are supported to gradually return to eating normal food and to keep off the weight they lost. 

This cycle of a low-calorie diet and weight loss maintenance is repeated up to three times, until they have lost 10-15% of their body weight. After each cycle, the research team is measuring the amount of fat in the pancreas and liver and looking to see who has gone into remission. 

So far, the research team has finished data collection for around half of the participants, who had an average BMI of 24.5. Those on the low-calorie programme lost weight and lose fat from their pancreas and liver, with around two thirds going into remission. 

When researchers design a study, they do a calculation to work out how many people they will need to test to be confident that the findings are reliable and not due to chance. So, while these early results are exciting, we’ll have to wait for the full results, expected next year, before we’ll know for sure if remission is possible for people with type 2 and a BMI below 27. 

Dr Lucy Chambers, Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK, said:

“We welcome these early results from the ReTUNE study and eagerly look forward to the full results expected next year, which will advance our understanding of how internal body fat contributes to type 2 diabetes. We also look forward to working with the NHS to make sure this research informs the development of services and support for people with type 2 diabetes. It is hoped that these findings, if positive, could eventually widen access to the NHS programmes for type 2 remission.”

Professor Roy Taylor, of Newcastle University, said: 

“These preliminary results suggest that weight loss can benefit people with type 2 diabetes who appear to be of ‘normal’ weight. They too have a chance of going into remission. The final results of ReTUNE will be available next year.”

People taking part in ReTUNE did so with the supervision of a medical team. Diabetes UK recommends speaking to a clinician or your diabetes team before starting a weight loss plan.

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