NHS GPs to prescribe 800 calorie liquid diet to diabetes patients

Up to 5,000 patients will be prescribed a liquid diet of just over 800 calories as part of the programme. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Thousands of NHS patients are to be prescribed a "very low-calorie diet" of soups and milkshakes in the hope of reversing their type 2 diabetes, NHS England has announced.

The diet is limited to 800 calories a day for three months and has been shown to help people lose excess weight which has caused fat to build up around their internal organs.

The strict diet has been shown to put patients recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in remission while a quarter of participants in a recent study achieved a weight loss of 15kg or more.

Around 10% of the NHS budget is spent on treating diabetes, which can have serious complications including blindness.

Up to 5,000 patients will be prescribed a liquid diet. Credit: PA

The diabetes prevention programme, which offers help and support for losing weight and becoming more active, is to double in size to 200,000 people, said NHS England.

This will include 5,000 people with type 2 diabetes who will be invited to take part in a highly supervised trial of VLCDs.

The action forms part of the NHS long-term plan, which will increase focus on prevention as well as cure.

The nine-month DPP helps patients achieve a healthy weight, improve their overall nutrition and increase levels of physical activity.

The approach follows the Diabetes UK-funded DiRECT trial, where almost half of those who went on a very low-calorie diet achieved remission of their type 2 diabetes after a year.

A quarter of participants achieved 15kg or more weight loss, and 86% of these put their type 2 diabetes into remission.

NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens. Credit: PA

A more recent trial of very low-calorie diets, DROPLET, demonstrated similar weight loss in obese people.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: "The NHS is now going to be ramping up practical action to support hundreds of thousands people avoid obesity-induced heart attacks, strokes, cancers and type 2 diabetes.

"Because what’s good for our waistlines is also good for our wallets, given the huge costs to all of us as taxpayers from these largely preventable illnesses.

"However this isn’t a battle that the NHS can win on its own.

"The NHS pound will go further if the food industry also takes action to cut junk calories and added sugar and salt from processed food, TV suppers and fast food takeaways."

The strict diet could put type 2 diabetes patients in remission Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity and can lead to a string of serious illnesses, including 13 types of cancer.

Recent projections show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people suffering a heart attack in 2035 and more than 50,000 suffering a stroke.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "While this groundbreaking study continues to explore how long-lasting these benefits are, we are delighted that NHS England have been inspired by this work to pilot a type 2 remission programme through the NHS.

"The programme is already the largest of its kind globally, and shows England to be a world leader in this area."