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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

The success of a low-calorie diet motivated Nick to continue eating healthily

 
Having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, in February 2016 Nick Barnes, 60, undertook the 8-week Blood Sugar Diet (eating a low-carb Mediterranean-style diet, averaging just 800 calories a day). At the end of it, we reported that, incredibly, his blood-sugar levels were back to normal. One year on, is he still managing his diabetes?

‘I had the HbA1c test for blood sugar levels a few months after finishing the 8-week diet. It’s a more detailed test than the basic finger- prick one, and it went right off the scale – but in the right direction. My doctor said he’d never seen anything like it. My latest test was 5.6, which is well within the target and I haven’t had to take any diabetes medication for a year.

‘After the diet ended I went back to eating normal amounts, but my meals are very different from how they were before the diet. The volume on my plate hasn’t changed, but what’s on it has. I had to avoid carbohydrates altogether initially, to get where I am, but now I can eat a small amount of pasta or potatoes. There are some things I know I need to stay completely clear of, though, such as cakes and biscuits.

Swapping in ingredients
‘I’m surprised the diet allowed me to get my diabetes under control. I was never trying to be dieter of the year, but it worked. Of course, it’s difficult to be rigid about what I eat all the time, especially on holiday, but small amounts of carbs don’t seem to have a negative effect on my blood-sugar levels.

‘Deciding what to eat doesn’t feel like hard work; it’s about making meals interesting. Every Monday I make a salad for around 20 colleagues to eat during our weekly lunch meeting. We always used to eat sandwiches, but because I was off refined carbohydrates, I decided to put together two great big bowls of delicious salads instead. People liked them so much, they kept asking me where I bought them.

‘It’s funny how we get used to salads being on the side of the plate when they can be a centrepiece if you add interesting elements. My favourites are flaked mackerel, pieces of chorizo, crumbled feta or toasted pine nuts. It makes such a difference and breaks the monotony.

Lasting benefits
‘I don’t miss the old way of eating because feeling healthier keeps me motivated. I’ve lost around a stone, I’m much more mobile and the way I eat is clearly working for my blood sugar levels. You just have to apply what you’ve always known to be sensible and stick with it. The great thing about the 8-week diet is that it means, for many people with type 2 diabetes, it may not be too late to do something about it.’

What the experts say

Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, says: ‘We’re funding the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), which is looking at whether a low-calorie diet such as the one Nick followed can put type 2 diabetes into remission and, importantly, be successfully delivered through routine NHS care. The trial has been running for one year, with 280 participants from across 30 GP practices, and we hope to share the results in October 2018. If the low-calorie diet is proved to be effective, it could change the way type 2 diabetes is managed by the NHS. But until the results are in, we recommend people with type 2 diabetes attempt to lose weight in this way only after speaking to their GP.’ Find out more at diabetes.org.uk

What Nick’s cooking
Nick looks for new recipes at healthyfood.co.uk, as well as returning to favourites from The 8-week Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book by Dr Clare Bailey with Dr Sarah Schenker (Short Books, £14.99), including these four recipes:

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