Australians with type 2 diabetes who switch to a "low-carbohydrate, high-protein, healthy fat" diet are putting the disease into remission, a survey of participants in the Defeat Diabetes program has shown.
And regional Australians on the program established by elite sports medico Dr Peter Brukner are reducing their waistlines by twice as much as those in metropolitan areas.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data confirms that the diabetes epidemic is the single biggest challenge for Australia's health system, with almost $7 billion a year spent on diabetes and illnesses caused by the condition, including heart disease.
According to Diabetes Australia, 1.2 million Australians are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and 2 million more have pre-diabetes or are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Defeat Diabetes says it has helped more than 5000 people manage their pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes since the "doctor-led", app-based diet and exercise advice program was launched in January 2021.
An efficacy survey of members released ahead of National Diabetes Week has shown:
Regional Australians on the program said they had been able to improve their glycaemic (HbA1c) levels on average by 2.4, greater than in metropolitan areas (1.5). They had also reduced their waistline by an average of 8.4 centimetres, almost double that of metropolitan areas (4.8 centimetres), and recorded an average weight loss of 5.3 kilograms.
Dr Brukner, who was inspired to establish Defeat Diabetes after his own health scare, said the survey showed that a "low-carb lifestyle" could benefit those most at risk.
"While it is wonderful to see the powerful impact that a low-carb approach is having across the nation, I am especially proud to see higher remission rates and weight loss among our regional members, who statistically are at far greater risk of type 2 diabetes and its complications," Dr Brukner said.
"Type 2 diabetes remains one of our nation's biggest killers, and morbidity and mortality rates remain far higher in regional and remote areas. As a nation, we must address this through investment in greater regional healthcare and, importantly, improved education regarding lifestyle and diet.
"These results prove that by making sustainable lifestyle changes like switching to a low-carbohydrate, high protein, healthy fat approach, patients in regional areas can successfully prevent, manage and even send type 2 diabetes into remission."
Diabetes Australia's first position statement on type 2 diabetes remission, released in October 2021, officially acknowledging that new research had shown it was possible for a period of intensive dietary change or bariatric surgery to lower elevated glucose levels in some people with type 2 diabetes.
But the national organisation cautioned that dietary and weight changes needed careful management, monitoring and support.
It also noted that the term remission did not mean "cure" or "reversal".
"The language used to talk about type 2 diabetes remission is very important," the position statement explained.
"The term remission has been carefully chosen over alternatives including 'cure' and 'reversal'.
"Remission is a term commonly used in relation to cancer treatment. It describes a decrease in, or disappearance of, the signs and symptoms of a disease. In type 2 diabetes remission, while an elevated glucose level may no longer be present, the underlying tendency towards diabetes remains."