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There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, but if you’re willing to make an effort, you might be able to reverse it. New research suggests that an aggressive combination of conventional treatments may put type 2 diabetes in remission.

Reversing diabetes means achieving lasting improvements in blood sugar levels that put you in the normal, non-diabetic range. Previously, some people have successfully reversed type 2 diabetes with bariatric surgery, such as a gastric bypass. But that is a drastic, life-changing measure that is not without risks. In a new clinical trial, individuals were successfully treated with a combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, oral diabetes medications, and insulin—no surgery needed.

In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers compared groups who received intensive eight- or sixteen-week interventions to a control group who received standard advice about managing diabetes.

It’s not surprising that rigidly following the aggressive treatment plan would produce positive results during the study. But would the benefits continue after some of the treatments ended? At the end of the intervention period, participants in the two intensively treated groups stopped taking diabetes medications but were encouraged to continue their healthy diet and exercise habits. Three months later, researchers found that up to 40 percent of them remained in complete or partial remission without medications.

Will it last?

It is beyond the scope of this limited-time study to predict how long—or if—the remissions may continue, but researchers are hopeful. “The research might shift the paradigm of treating diabetes from simply controlling glucose to an approach where we induce remission and then monitor patients for any signs of relapse,” said the study’s first author, Natalia McInnes, MD, MSc, FRCPC, of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Before they prescribe diabetes medications, many doctors advise people who are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to try controlling it with diet and exercise alone. This study reinforces the importance of that advice and offers hope that even people who have long depended on diabetes drugs may not need to take them for the rest of their life. Although the results of this study are intriguing, additional research is needed to confirm the findings.

Always follow your doctor’s advice, and never change your diabetes treatment regimen without his or her approval.