BMJ: Why don’t we encourage and register the diabetics who achieve remission?

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Weighing up the benefits of registering those in remission from type two diabetes

Adapted from BMJ Louise McCombie et al 16 Sept 17

Type two diabetes now affects between 5 -10% of the UK population. This is 3.2 million people in the UK. 10% of the NHS budget is spent on treating diabetes and costs are between two and three times that of age matched individuals without diabetes. Life expectancy is six years less for people with type two diabetes.
Remission is attainable for some patients but is rarely achieved or recorded. (My comments: except in the low carbing community) The trend is for diabetes management to focus on reversible underlying disease mechanisms rather than treating symptoms and multisystem pathological consequences.
Lowering blood glucose remains the primary aim of management and drugs are the main method of doing this rather than diet and lifestyle advice. (My comment: because high carb/low fat dietary advice is counterproductive).
It has been found that weight loss of 15kg often produces biochemical remission of type two diabetes, restoring beta cell function. The accumulation of fat in the liver and pancreas impairs organ function to cause type two diabetes but is potentially reversible. If remission is achieved, the person no longer requires diabetes drugs.
The American Diabetes Association describe a partial remission as below the threshold for diabetes diagnosis. This is a hba1c of less than 6.5%/48 mmol/mol and a fasting blood sugar less than 6.9 without diabetes drugs. A full remission is described as the elimination of the criteria for impaired glucose tolerance. This means a hba1c less than 6%/42 and a fasting blood sugar under 5.6 again without the use of diabetes drugs.
A full remission will completely remove the cardiovascular risk associated with diabetes but partial remission removes a great deal of the risk and is still very much worthwhile.
We suggest that whether hba1c or fasting blood sugars are used to detect remission that these are repeated twice at two month intervals. Once in remission, a patient should be tested annually.
No study has yet been done that has reported the outcomes for diabetics in remission, but you would expect their outcomes to be much better than it otherwise would.
If a patient achieves remission, and if the Read code C10P is applied to them, they would still be scheduled for annual reviews and retinal screening programmes but would be considered non-diabetic for matters such as insurance, driving, and employment. But so far, in Scotland, only 0.1% of diabetics have been coded as being in remission.
Perhaps there are coding errors, but the possibility that type two diabetes can be reversed may not be fully understood by both doctors and patients. If patients achieve either a 10% body weight loss or 15kg, then 75-80% of them can expect to go into diabetes remission.
Physical and social environments, emotional states and self- regulatory skills are important factors affecting adherence to a weight management intervention.
It costs around £5,000 for the medical care of a person with type two diabetes but this almost doubles over the age of 65. The patient also has increasing holiday insurance costs. This is around double the usual rate for type twos and more for insulin users. Could knowledge of the advantages of weight loss act as an incentive for patients?

 

3 thoughts on “BMJ: Why don’t we encourage and register the diabetics who achieve remission?”

  1. I no longer keep up with diabetes forums but I know a while back it became fashionable for doctors to deregister well controlled diabetics, telling them they were no longer diabetic, or had never been diabetic, if they reached an A1c below 6.

    Obviously this improves the NHS statistics at a stroke. Not so good when it is done to Type 1s though . . .

    Like

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