A recent study by scientists at Newcastle University in the UK has created a global controversy on how few calories are safe to eat. Rob Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University, had monitored patients after gastric bypass surgeries and observed that many with type 2 diabetes no longer had fat deposits on their organs and no longer needed medication to control their blood sugar within a couple of months of the surgery. Taylor led a study to see if the sudden remission of type 2 diabetes might be due to the extremely low calorie intake of post surgery patients and not due to the surgical removal of the patient’s intestines. Some surgeons claim that the removal of portions of the intestines which produce certain substances is responsible for the change in the patient’s diabetes and the surgery is a cure for the disease. However, after gastric bypass surgery, patients can only eat very small amounts of food which greatly limits their calorie intake.
Eleven people with type 2 diabetes took part in the study and cut their calories to 600 calories a day for two months. The study found that 7 of 11 obese individuals had a complete remission of their type 2 diabetes after being on the diet for 8 weeks (and losing an average of only 33 lbs). Surprisingly, this remission has lasted over 18 months so far even though the average participant has regained almost 7 lbs in that time frame.
Doctors from around the globe have claimed this is not a diet but “starvation” and a very dangerous therapy for people with type 2 diabetes. Yet, the research, presented at the American Diabetes Association conference, showed that an extremely low-calorie diet prompted the body to remove fat clogging the pancreas and preventing it from making insulin which may be a major contributor to type 2 diabetes. After just one week on the diet, the pre-breakfast blood sugar levels of the study group had returned to normal and MRI scans showed that the fat levels in the pancreas had returned to normal.
Considering the incredible results, the lack of any invasive surgery or drugs required, and the short term nature of the “treatment”, it is hard to understand the outrage of the doctors. Throughout history, fasting and minimizing calorie intake has been considered an important part of health and well-being. This study adds to the proof that obesity is a disease with a defined pathology which can be controlled by extreme changes in calorie intake, even for one week. As the global population continues its increase in obesity, this study clarifies the health risk of the high-calorie diets we have come to accept as the norm. It may also highlight the current distorted view of how many calories an average person needs in a day, especially older adults.
In our case, we have been reducing our calories over the past 4 years. Though we have slowly made progress, our diet of 1200-1400 calories for my wife and 1600-1800 calories for me, is no longer resulting in weight loss. After reading this study we reduced our calories to 800-900 calories for my wife and 1200-1400 calories for myself which has resulted in our weight loss resuming, allowing us to make progress on our goal of getting our BMI’s under 25. These calorie numbers are substantially lower in comparison to the government’s published RDA (recommended daily allowances) amounts assuming a 2000 calorie diet. Unfortunately, eating anything close to 2000 calories a day causes us to gain weight. We now realize that we need far less calories in our fifties that we did in our forties even with our increased level of activity. As a part of cutting our calories back, we continue to focus on making every calorie count in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to keep us healthy and energetic.