Our scientists have shown that some adults with type 2 diabetes can go into remission through a low-calorie weight management programme. Dr Sachdev will now explore if the same approach is possible in children with type 2 diabetes. This could lead to a much-needed new treatment that gives children with type 2 the chance to go into remission and the opportunity for a healthier future.
Background to research
Our DiRECT study has transformed our understanding of type 2 diabetes. It showed that adults with type 2 who live with extra weight or obesity can go into remission through a low-calorie diet programme. But we don’t know if children with type 2 diabetes could benefit from a similar treatment.
The number of children and young people with type 2 diabetes is rising and the condition is a more aggressive form than type 2 in adults. Studies have shown that low-calorie diets can help children and young people living with obesity lose around 10kg. But there’s been very little research looking at the effects of weight loss on remission in children with type 2 and obesity.
Before costly and timely clinical trials are run to test the effectiveness of this approach, scientists need to know if young people with type 2 would want to take part in a low-calorie diet study.
Dr Pooja Sachdev’s study will find out if a low-calorie diet is acceptable to children with type 2 diabetes. The Low EnerGy DiEt iN obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes (LEGEND) study will involve 33 children aged 12-18 years with type 2 diabetes. They’ll be given a low-calorie diet for 12 weeks with frequent support from their healthcare team. After this, they’ll gradually reintroduce normal meals and healthy eating under the careful guidance of a dietitian.
During the study the children will have regular tests and scans to monitor their health and check for remission. This will give researchers a vital first insight into how much weight young children need to lose to see benefits like those in adults.
Dr Sachdev and her team will also talk to the children and their families, as well as healthcare staff, to find out what makes it easier or harder for children to take part in this type of study and stick to a low-calorie diet for the necessary period.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
The number of young people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK and rates of childhood obesity are increasing steeply year on year. Young people with type 2 are a very vulnerable group. They have the fewest treatment options and the highest risk of diabetes complications.
The findings from Dr Sachdev’s study will be used to inform a larger clinical trial comparing a low-calorie diet with the current type 2 diabetes care for under-18s. In the future, this could lead to a new urgently needed treatment for young people with type 2 and provide them with hope for a future free from type 2 diabetes and its serious health complications.