Our Diabetes Educator Nicole Frayne explains what ‘remission’ is and what it means for those living with type 2 diabetes.
What is type 2 diabetes?
As defined by Diabetes Australia, type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and the pancreas loses the ability to produce enough insulin. Insulin helps turn glucose into energy for the body and this is essential to maintain health.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed using the haemoglobin A1c (or HbA1c) test – a blood test which measures average blood glucose levels over the past three months. A result of 6.5% (48mmol/mol) or greater in the HbA1c test is indicative of type 2 diabetes.
New research shows it’s possible for some people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their average blood glucose level (under 6.5% (48mmol/mol) in HbA1c test) and sustain that level for a prolonged period of time (at least three months), without the need for glucose lowering medication. This is referred to as type 2 diabetes ‘remission’ (1).
However, while an elevated glucose level may no longer be present, it is important to remember that the underlying tendency towards diabetes remains.
How is remission achieved?
Remission is more likely to be achieved for people with type 2 diabetes within the first few years of diagnoses and who are overweight or obese.
For people who are overweight or obese and achieve remission, it is usually achieved following a dietary change for an intensive period of time or through bariatric surgery.
People who want to pursue diabetes remission should do so in close consultation with their diabetes health care team, as intensive dietary and weight changes need careful management, monitoring and support.
It is also important to recognise that not everyone living with type 2 diabetes is overweight or obese and achieving and sustaining remission may not be possible for everyone.
However, this new research, combined with a growing number of Australians who have achieved remission, offers hope for many.
National Diabetes Week
During National Diabetes Week in 2023, type 2 diabetes remission formed one of the key topics being discussed by people living with diabetes and diabetes experts at the Great Debate Series.
1: Matthew C. Riddle, William T. Cefalu, Philip H. Evans, et al. Consensus Report: Definition and Interpretation of Remission in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2021 Oct; 44 (10): 2438 -2444