Blood pressure and type 2 diabetes can be managed without medication through sustained weight loss, according to research from the Universities of Glasgow and Newcastle.
A new weight management programme developed by the researchers and implemented through primary care, saw patients lose 15kg (2 stone), putting type 2 diabetes into remission and reducing the need for blood pressure medications.
The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, provides evidence that withdrawing blood pressure medications is safe if people lose weight and have regular blood pressure checks. When weight loss is achieved and maintained, patients can effectively manage both hypertension and type 2 diabetes without drugs.
In the UK there are currently 4.5 million people living with type 2 diabetes, the main cause of which is being overweight. Over half of this group require tablets for hypertension to reduce vascular complications.
Study participants were put on a low-calorie diet of nutritionally complete soups and shakes for twelve weeks in order to lose weight. Of the 143 people who started the diet programme, more than half were on tablets for high blood pressure. At the start of the trial all participants stopped taking both diabetes and blood pressure medications and were only re-started if blood sugar or blood pressure rose.
Participants were supported to maintain weight loss after the initial twelve-week dietary plan. Eight out of ten people who sustained the weight loss became free from type 2 diabetes removing the need for medication for at least two years, and over a quarter remained off blood pressure medications for this time.
Professor Mike Lean, from the University of Glasgow, said: ‘Our study shows that, in addition to possible remission from type 2 diabetes, weight loss is a very effective treatment for hypertension and its associated serious health risks.’
According to the researchers, guidelines encourage doctors to start tablets to manage high blood pressure but there have been few demonstrations of how tablets can be stopped.
Professor Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, added: ‘My patients, like so many, do not like swallowing multiple tablets, and this study is important as we can now reassure them that stopping blood pressure tablets is not only safe but also good for their health’.