The NHS in the North East and North Cumbria has introduced a service to help hundreds of people beat Type 2 diabetes by losing weight.

75 people have started the NHS Low Calorie Diet, sometimes called the ‘soups and shakes diet’ so far and the programme is open to another 425 people over the next 18 months. The first participants to finish the first three month phase of the year-long programme have lost an average of 15kg (almost 2½ stone) – or 13.5% of their starting weights.

The ground-breaking DiRECT study and other research at Newcastle University has shown that the combination of a low calorie diet and lifestyle support can help many people put their Type 2 diabetes into remission. Many participants also reduce or stop medications and experience a wide range of other benefits from feeling and sleeping better to having less pain and fewer diabetes complications.

The NHS Low Calorie Diet is being provided in the North East and North Cumbria as part of an NHS drive to increase access to this life-changing programme. The year-long plan provides participants with ‘total diet replacement products’ – specially formulated low calorie shakes, soups and bars – for three months, followed by support to eat more healthily and increase activity levels over the long-term. The entire service is provided at no cost to patients, which is particularly helpful during the cost-of-living crisis.

Since Darren Newbould aged 52 from Consett in County Durham started attending the NHS Low Calorie Diet delivered by Momenta his life has been transformed. “I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after a health check at my GP practice. It was really quick after that – I was referred 6-8 weeks later. What I was signing up for was made totally clear by the Momenta team. The process was really useful and I didn’t feel pressured into doing the programme, but I knew it would take some serious commitment.

“The Total Diet Replacement [TDR] phase of soups, shakes and bars was surprisingly not a problem – I think I overestimated how long 3 months would feel! Losing weight was such a key motivator that the time went by very quickly and I never got tired of the tastes and flavours.

“The programme itself is very informative and very well put together. I learned you need to set realistic goals around weight loss and have support around you to keep motivated, especially when the weight loss isn’t rapid. After the TDR phase I became a lot more mindful of calorie and portion control – I was determined not to go back to the way I was before

“The Momenta Workbooks worked well with the sessions and I enjoyed how comfortable I – and everyone else – in the group felt. I’m an extrovert, but I enjoyed seeing those who are more introverted feel comfortable in the groups – like we were in a safe space to contribute.

“My overall goal is to put my diabetes into remission. In the first 2 phases of the NHS Low Calorie Diet programme I lost 25kg (almost 4 stone). I felt better and could be more active again. At my 6-month blood test at the GP practice my HbA1c dropped from 54 mmol/mol to 33mmol/mol. The clinical team couldn’t believe the progress I’d made so quickly.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying activity again, especially as I didn’t feel comfortable doing it before the programme. During Phase 3 I want to walk the length of the country in 18 weeks, which I’m well on the way to doing after doing over 100,000 steps in my first week!
I know if me and others do this it’ll ease the pressure on the NHS in years to come. Give it a go. But if you want to see the benefits, you’ve got to be prepared to stick to it. The benefits really do outweigh the negatives.”

As well as helping people lead happier and healthier lives, enhanced action on obesity and diabetes is also expected to save the NHS money and free up staff time. Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion a year, while almost one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs is for diabetes treatment.

Dr Patrick Holmes, GP and Diabetes Clinical Lead for NHS North East and North Cumbria, said: “We are delighted that the NHS Low Calorie Diet programme is giving patients like Darren the opportunity to transform their lives, reversing diabetes and sustaining their weight loss.

“There has never been a more important time for people to lose weight and put their Type 2 diabetes into remission, so it’s good news for patients in the North East and North Cumbria that practical measures like this are increasingly available on the NHS.”

People aged 18-65 diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the last six years and who meet various other criteria are eligible for the programme. They will receive low calorie total diet replacement products alongside 20 in-person group sessions and support. The service, provided by Momenta Newcastle, is free for eligible participants referred by their GP practice.

Contact your GP practice to find out more.