The findings of a new research study will change how patients with Type 2 diabetes are cared for in Qatar, with a new diabetes reversal clinic set to open at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) in the coming months.
The study, led by teams at HMCs Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA), and Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), was funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and found that Type 2 diabetes could be reversed in more than 60% of participants through dietary change, physical activity, and behaviour change, and without medication or weight loss surgery.
The study, which was recently published in the internationally renowned medical journal, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, is believed to be the first intensive lifestyle intervention trial in the Middle East and North Africa region and is the country’s first clinical trial in primary care.
“The research targeted patients who developed Type 2 diabetes within the past two years. One group of study participants received optimal diabetes care with diabetes medications, education, and dietary consultation. The other group received meal replacement for three months targeting weight reduction, followed by a weight maintenance regular diet. They received no diabetes medication at all. Diabetes was reversed, or cured in the majority of patients in the second group – the group who received no medication,” said Professor Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, Director, Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), and one of the study’s principal investigators.
“In the coming months we are planning to open a Diabetes Reversal Clinics for patients who are motivated to treat their diabetes through lifestyle modification,” added Professor Abou-Samra.
Dr. Shahrad Taheri, Senior Consultant at HMC, Chair of the QMI Research Committee, and a Professor at WCM-Q said the findings of the study are exciting and could revolutionize the way Type 2 diabetes is treated.
“This study proves that it is possible to reverse diabetes through lifestyle modification and that this course of treatment results in a better outcome than diabetes medications or bariatric surgery.
The research study was a success because of a close partnership between HMC-QMI, PHCC, QDA, and WCM-Q. We are now going to take the findings from the research into the clinic.
The planned clinics and future research will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities, including wellness centres in primary care,” said Dr Taheri, who was the lead principal investigator of the study.
Dr Samya Al Abdulla, Senior Consultant and Executive Director of Operations at PHCC, and a principal investigator of the study said that many of the study’s participants were recruited from the PHCCs Rawdat Al Khail Health Center. She called the initiative a very productive collaboration between PHCC, QMI-HMC, QDA, and WCM-Q.
“The results of the study are important because they will have a significant, positive impact on the lives of people affected by Type 2 diabetes. As the majority of Type 2 diabetic patients are cared for in the primary care setting, PHCC fully supports this collaborative initiative which we know will help benefit our patients and reduce the health burden of diabetes in the community,” said Dr. Al Abdulla.
Dr Abdullah Al Hamaq, Executive Director of the Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA), a member of Qatar Foundation (QF), and a principal investigator of the study, said diabetes is one of the greatest health challenges facing Qatar and the world today and he noted that this research will pave the way for new treatment modalities
“As an integral part of the Qatar National Diabetes Strategy, diabetic research such as this study enhance our understanding of not only the disease but also therapeutic interventions. Research that focuses on the local population is instrumental in developing effective and specialized treatments for people with Type 2 diabetes, both in Qatar and region,” says Dr. Al Hamaq.
Professor Abou-Samra added that the research is highly relevant to Qatar because Type 2 diabetes is prevalent in the country and the findings provide treating physicians with evidence that supports an effective, alternative method for disease management.
“These findings are evidence that Type 2 diabetes does not have to be a progressive and irreversible disease.
It is a treatable disease when an effective lifestyle intervention is used, particularly in patients with recent diabetes development.
Through lifestyle intervention, there can be no progression of the disease and no progression of complications, and that is very significant for current and future generations,” said Professor Abou-Samra.