Thousands of Brits are to benefit from the NHS soups and shakes diet programme, after a trial found participants lost an average of more than two stone in just three months.
The life-changing programme, which has helped more than 2,000 people living with Type 2 diabetes improve their health, is due to be rolled out in 11 more regions across England.
But what exactly is it and who's eligible?
The programme provides a low calorie diet treatment for people who are overweight and have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, in which participants are offered diet replacement products like soups and shakes.
Helping those with the condition to lose weight, make healthy lifestyle choices and avoid further preventable illness, the programme is designed to enable them to better control their sugar levels, reducing the need for diabetes-related medication, and potentially even reverse their diabetes when levels return to normal.
The soups and shakes will add up to around 900 calories per day, for up to 12 weeks, during which time participants will replace all normal meals with these products, according to NHS England.
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But it won't cut off there, as participants will also receive support and monitoring for 12 months after the initial three months, to help them maintain a healthy weight, including help to re-introduce meals with healthy, nutritious food. Depending on location, this may either be delivered in a group, one-to-one, or digitally/remotely, and will allow participants to track their progress.
Those taking part will also receive support from their local GP should any medicines need to be changed, for example.
Officially called the NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme, NHS England points out it isn't suitable for everyone. The eligibility requirements mean individuals must be between 18-65, have a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes within the last six years, and have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 27 kg/m2 if from white ethnic groups, or more than 25 kg/m2 if from black, Asian and other ethnic groups.
Read more: The NHS' 12-week weight loss plan explained
The programme is being extended to North East and North Cumbria, West Yorkshire, Lancashire and South Cumbria, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, Black Country, Somerset, Bristol, north Somerset and south Gloucestershire, mid and south Essex, south west London, Kent and Medway and Sussex.
Karen Bradbury, 50, Derbyshire, who started the programme around a year ago, said, “I have battled with my weight on and off over the years and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I was told by my nurse that if my levels hadn’t reduced significantly by my next review, I’d be put on daily medication and I really didn’t want that.
“Since being on the low calorie diet programme, I have felt totally supported by the practitioners and all the tools available. I’ve learnt loads about Type 2 diabetes and how to manage stress and habits with food."
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Bradbury added, “I feel so much healthier. I have lost 5 stone 3.5 lbs and my blood sugar levels have nearly halved – which meant I didn’t have to start medication! My energy levels have increased substantially, and I am now swimming 3 to 4 times a week and walking every day.
“I used to wake up to 10 times a night to use the bathroom, I was thirsty all the time, exhausted and generally felt unwell. Now I sleep soundly all night and feel less tired during the day. My mental health has also improved. I feel better and I’m living better for me and my children. I’m so grateful that I was offered this opportunity”.
Early data from the NHS programme found participants each lose 7.2kg (over a stone) on average after one month, and 13.4kg (over two stone) after three months.
New data also unearths that the programme not only helps participants lose weight, but keep it off, while trials showed that around half of people who had similar weight loss were able to achieve remission of their Type 2 diabetes after one year.
Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion per year, with treatment making up one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs.
Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said, “ Since its launch, this low-calorie diet pilot, inspired by Diabetes UK’s ground-breaking DiRECT trial, has helped thousands of people across England access the support they need to lose weight effectively and potentially put their Type 2 diabetes in remission."
If you live in an area where the service is being delivered you will need to speak to your GP or diabetes team to find out whether it's suitable for you, or can find out more information about the low calorie diet here. Meanwhile, Diabetes UK's confidential helpline is 0345 123 2399.
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