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Here’s how the Extreme Nessie Diet could help you tackle diabetes

Could the Nessie diet offer hope to managing Type 2 diabetes?
Could the Nessie diet offer hope to managing Type 2 diabetes?

A trial in the Highlands is demonstrating the importance of weight loss in helping prevent diabetes or putting the condition into remission.

Volunteers are testing a home-made very low calorie diet (VLCD), known as the Extreme Nessie Diet, as a way of controlling Type 2 diabetes.

Early signs are encouraging, with blood glucose levels falling among participants with early onset Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

‘I’m no longer diabetic’ after taking part in trial

One man taking part says he is “no longer diabetic” after losing three-and-a-half stone nine weeks into the study.

He has come off medication for diabetes as well as for other health issues.

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and NHS Highland are carrying out tests involving volunteers aged between 20-70.

Diabetes Specialist Nurse, Charlotte Heppenstall consults with a patient in the Highland Diabetes Institute in Inverness. Picture Sandy McCook

All have pre-diabetes or have newly been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and whose weight is a risk factor.

The recruits are using the Extreme Nessie Diet, consisting of a specially-prepared milkshake, fruit and vegetables and vitamin supplements for 12 weeks.

Carbohydrates are then slowly re-introduced with a plan to get back to a healthy diet that maintains weight and glucose levels.

There are nearly 19,000 people with diabetes in Highland region and 17% of hospital admissions are related to diabetes complications.

The level of overweight or obesity is also higher in Highland at 68%, compared to the Scottish average of 65%.

What is the study looking at?

The study is examining the potential for volunteers to get long-term health benefits from the weight loss diet.

This includes reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and if it’s possible for their condition to go into remission.

Although it is not part of the study, it is felt the risk of obesity and developing diabetes has increased during lockdown.

The study comprises four periods of 12 weeks. After trying the diet and re-introducing meals, the volunteers have periods of weight maintenance with dietitian support and then self-maintenance.

The milkshake recipe includes ingredients readily available from grocers and supermarkets.

It is being taken as meal replacements up to three times daily.

Diabetes specialist nurse, Charlotte Heppenstall and clinical trials assistant Natasha Hawick of the Highland Diabetes Institute. Picture by Sandy McCook

The diet, that volunteers make themselves, was developed by diabetes specialist dietitian Charlotte Heppenstall based at the Highland Diabetes Institute.

Participants will have regular support through face-to-face, video call or phone appointments with a dietitian who will help with long-term dietary and lifestyle changes.

They will also complete questionnaires throughout the study and provide blood samples as well as weight and blood pressure information.

This is to allow researchers to assess the impact of the diet on their health and to ensure they are given the appropriate treatment for blood glucose levels and blood pressure.

Professor Sandra MacRury is chair of clinical diabetes at UHI and academic lead for the Scottish Rural Health Partnership.

Encouraging weight loss during study

She said: “We know how effective the very low calorie diet approach is in reversing Type 2 diabetes through weight loss.

“While still in the early stages of our study, we are seeing very encouraging weight loss results and reduction in blood glucose levels in participants with both early onset Type 2 diabetes and, importantly, in those with pre-diabetes using our home-prepared diet approach.

“We’ll be monitoring our participants for several months to measure outcomes.

“But this is a very promising start in our bid to tackle weight loss and prevention of Type 2 diabetes in Highland and beyond.”

This is a very promising start in our bid to tackle weight loss and prevention of Type 2 diabetes in Highland and beyond.”

Prof Sandra MacRury

One volunteer, a retired man aged 65 from the Black Isle, says his Type 2 diabetes is now “under control” six weeks into the trial.

He said: “It can be achieved if you want to do it.

“If you say you’re having three milkshakes a day, along with three portions of fruit and veg, it doesn’t sound that appealing.

“But it’s what you make of it.

“Since I started the trial six weeks ago I’ve stopped two lots of medication and my diabetes is under control.”

A blood sugar reading of 4-7 millimoles per litre (mmol/l) is a healthy target, with over 7 considered high.

Prof Sandra MacRury says the trial had made a promising start

The volunteer’s reading went as high as 13 but is now down to an average of 6.3mmol/l.

“Effectively, I’m no longer diabetic. It’s going extremely well. The effect has been dramatic.

“When I started this trial I was taking nine different tablets. I’ve now stopped five and halved the dose of another.”

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