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Continuing on the diet theme, Sarah Boseley reports in the Guardian today on a new piece of research from Newcastle University. Researchers there have discovered that a very harsh 600 calorie a day diet can reverse type 2 diabetes in some cases. 7 out of 11 participants in the study were free of diabetes after two months of the strict regime. Given the strong links between diabetes and sleep apnoea some further research into the impact (besides the benefits of weight loss) this diet may have on sufferers would be very welcome.

In the UK about two and a half million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, the large majority with type 2, and numbers are rising across much of the world. The condition has to be controlled with drugs and eventually insulin injections. It can cause blindness and end in foot amputation, as well as shortening life.

“To have people free of diabetes after years with the condition is remarkable – and all because of an eight-week diet,” said Roy Taylor, professor at Newcastle University, who led the study. “This is a radical change in understanding type 2 diabetes. It will change how we can explain it to people newly diagnosed with the condition. While it has long been believed that someone with type 2 diabetes will always have the disease, and that it will steadily get worse, we have shown that we can reverse the condition.”

The research, presented today at the American Diabetes Association conference, shows that an extremely low-calorie diet, consisting of diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables, prompts the body to remove the fat clogging the pancreas and preventing it from making insulin. However, as the study’s funders Diabetes UK warn, this diet should only be attempted under the supervision of a medical professional.

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A new study published in the British Medical Journal this month has shown that a very low energy diet can have long-term benefits for sleep apnoea sufferers.

It is already known that obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with several adverse outcomes, including impaired cognitive function, vehicle crashes and occupational injuries, and death.

Randomised controlled trials have recently shown that weight loss improves obstructive sleep apnoea in overweight and obese patients.   The long term effect of weight loss has been studied only in people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea and in older patients with type 2 diabetes.

“Of all people with obstructive sleep apnea, an estimated 60-70% are either overweight or obese,” writes Kari Johansson, PhD student in the Obesity Unit, Department of Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues. “Given the close association between obstructive sleep apnoea and obesity, weight loss has been advocated as a primary treatment option in obese patients with sleep apnoea…. Despite an improving case for the robust treatment effect of weight loss in obstructive sleep apnoea, concerns remain regarding the long term maintenance of improvements, especially after rapid weight loss with a very low energy diet.”

Study conclusions:

  • The initial improvements in apnoea-hypopnoea index after nine weeks of a very low energy diet (−58%) were largely maintained at the one year follow-up (−47%)

  • At one year, 48% (30/63) no longer required continuous positive airway pressure and 10% (six/63) had total remission of obstructive sleep apnoea

  • Patients who lost the most in weight or had severe sleep apnoea at baseline benefited most

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