Weight loss immediately after diagnosis is the most effective way to send type 2 diabetes into remission, new research has found.
Patients who shed 10% or more of their body weight in the first five years after being diagnosed have the highest chance of setting themselves on the road to recovery, a study by the University of Cambridge found.
Obesity is the biggest risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. The disease affects around 400 million people worldwide, 3.8 million of these cases are in the UK.
The condition puts sufferers at risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputations. However, it can be managed long-term through lifestyle changes and medication.
It's also possible for sufferers to return their blood glucose levels to normal through drastic calorie restriction and weight loss.
A diet of just 700 calories a day - less than one cheeseburger - for eight weeks has been associated with remission in nine out of 10 newly diagnosed cases.
The same diet is associated with remission in half of long-term diabetes sufferers.
The new study found relatively modest but swift weight loss - as soon as the diagnosis is received - is also very effective at tackling the disease.
A study of 867 people between the age of 40 and 69 with newly-diagnosed diabetes found that 257 were in remission at a five-year follow up.
Those who managed 10% weight loss in this period were more than twice as likely to go into remission, the research found, compared to those that stayed the same weight.
One of the report's authors, Dr Hajira Dambha-Miller, of Cambridge's Department of Public Health and Primary Care, said: "We've known for some time now that it's possible to send diabetes into remission using fairly drastic measures such as intensive weight loss programmes and extreme calorie restriction."
The team are now working on a second study to understand how best to help those with type 2 diabetes achieve and maintain weight loss.
"The rising number of people with type 2 diabetes is worrying for the nation's overall health as well as putting avoidable pressure on the NHS with a heavy cost for taxpayers," an NHS spokesperson said.