The form of diabetes that blights the lives of millions of middle-aged Britons could be wiped out by cutting calories severely for just two months, research suggests.
After a small-scale trial, diabetics who consumed just 600 calories a day - the amount many people would eat at lunch alone - were able to throw away their tablets.
Eighteen months on, some are still free of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and usually occurs in middle age.
The Newcastle University researchers described the result as remarkable and said it proves that the condition that affects 2.5million Britons need not be a life sentence.
It also paves the way for new treatments for those who cannot stick to the drastic diet.
Professor Roy Taylor, the study's lead author, said: 'This is a radical change in our understanding of type 2 diabetes.
'While it has long been believed that the disease will steadily get worse, we have shown that we can reverse it.'
|Diet: Diabetics who consumed just 600 calories a day for two months were able to throw away their tablets
In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough insulin - a hormone key in the conversion of sugar into energy - and the insulin that is made does not work properly.
The condition is often controlled initially with a stringent diet and exercise regime. But many sufferers see their health worsen and eventually need tablets or insulin injections.
Diabetics are more likely to develop heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and nerve and circulatory damage, which at its worst can lead to amputations.
Reversing the condition could therefore improve long-term health and quality of life.
The researchers put 11 men and women with type 2 diabetes on a diet of 600 calories a day for eight weeks.
After just a week, some of their blood sugar readings had returned to normal, the journal Diabetologia reports.
After two months, fat levels in the pancreas had returned to normal and the organ was able to pump out insulin without any problems. Some patients no longer needed tablets to control high blood pressure.
The researchers believe that a strict diet melts away fat clogging up the pancreas, allowing it to operate normally.
Three months after the end of the diet, seven of the 11 men and women were still diabetes-free. Now, 18 months on, four of the five that have been in touch with the researchers still have no signs of diabetes.
Dr Iain Frame, of Diabetes UK, which funded the study, warned that no one should go on such a drastic diet without speaking to his or her doctor.
© Daily Mail, London