We’ve known for years that we are in the middle of a global diabetes epidemic. But we also know that Type 2 Diabetes, the kind that’s afflicting nearly 400 million people around the world, is entirely preventable. A balanced diet low in calories and plenty of exercise can make all the difference, easing stress on pancreas and liver and allowing the body to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar effectively.
The Caribbean, where I’ve been living for nearly four decades now, has become a major battleground in the fight against Type 2 Diabetes. It is an incredible serious issue here, with around one in five adults suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, which occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin or when the insulin produced does not work properly. It affects the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys – I’ve seen somebody lose a leg from it, and older people lose their lives.
Already, the impacts on fragile health infrastructures are being felt. That’s why Virgin Unite, our foundation, is launching the Barbados Diabetes Reversal Study (BDRS), in partnership with the Diabetes Association of Barbados and the Barbados Diabetes Foundation.
The aim of the BDRS is to determine the acceptability and effectiveness of an eight week very low calorie diet to reverse Type 2 Diabetes in Barbados. Our hope is that the study’s success could show a pathway out of the diabetes crisis in this region, identifying a range of simple options for people to change their diets and stay healthy. This will be specific to the region, finding out what works in the Caribbean, compared to what works in the UK or elsewhere. This research builds on the wonderful work of Professor Roy Taylor at Newcastle University in the UK. In 2011 he found that Type 2 Diabetes can be reversed by adopting a short very low calorie diet, followed by weight maintenance. Participants were able to get rid of excess fat in the liver and pancreas and restore blood sugar to normal levels.
Now UWI researchers are hoping to see similar results in Barbadians, with Professor Taylor providing scientific leadership for the study.
If you live in Barbados, have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in the last six years, and are interested in participating in the study, please email: email@example.com.
For other enquiries about the study, please contact Professor Nigel Unwin of the Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies in Barbados at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If effective in larger studies, this research could change the way Type 2 Diabetes is treated in the future. There have been plenty of sceptics who don’t believe reversing Type 2 Diabetes is possible, but the facts suggest this is the beginning of something very exciting. This has the potential to be life-altering and even life-saving for many people. We're really looking forward to seeing results later in 2015.