Local NHS joining programme that improves health of people with Type 2 diabetes using ‘soup and shakes’ diet

The NHS in south west London is joining a programme that has helped more than 2,000 people with Type 2 diabetes improve their health through the ‘soups and shakes’ diet – with participants losing an average of over 13 kilogrammes after three months.

Helping people diagnosed with diabetes lose weight and make better decisions about their health through the NHS low calorie diet programme enables them to better control their blood sugar levels, reducing the need for diabetes-related medication and potentially achieve remission of Type 2 diabetes when their levels return to a healthy range. 

With ‘soup and shakes’, early data from the ongoing programme suggests participants each lose 7.2kg (over one stone) on average after one month and 13.4kg (over two stones) after three months.

New data also shows that people on the programme who are eating and drinking the low calorie alternatives not only lose weight but keep it off over time. These real-world findings are a significant step forward and come after trials showed that around half of people who had similar weight loss were able to achieve remission of their Type 2 diabetes after one year.

Following its success so far, the life-changing programme is now being extended to cover a further 11 areas, including south west London. 

Lead GP for Merton, Dr Vasa Gnanapragasam, said: “Living with Type 2 diabetes is a daily challenge for millions, as well as a growing issue for our NHS, so we’re really pleased to be joining a programme that is already making a huge difference for so many people and I have no doubt it will do the same for south west Londoners.

“Small lifestyle changes prevent large life-altering health problems – eating a bit less and losing some weight through programmes such as this can transform people’s daily lives and maybe even ensure their blood sugar levels are healthy without the need for medication.”

The year-long programme kick-starts weight loss through low calorie, total diet replacement products, such as shakes and soups for the first three months, alongside support and monitoring. After this, a carefully managed plan reintroduces healthy, nutritious food, with ongoing support from expert clinicians and coaches and participants can track their progress through virtual one-to-ones, group sessions and digital support – to help them maintain a healthier weight.

Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “We’re delighted to see the expansion of NHS England’s free weight-loss programme for people living with Type 2 diabetes. Since its launch, this low-calorie diet pilot, inspired by Diabetes UK’s ground-breaking DiRECT trial, has helped thousands of people across England access the support they need to lose weight effectively and potentially put their Type 2 diabetes in remission.”

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, said: “With research showing that obesity causes more severe illness from Covid-19, as well as other serious diseases, there has never been a more important time to lose weight.” 

The expansion of the NHS low-calorie diet programme follows the launch of the NHS digital weight management programme in July, which is freely available for all adults living with obesity, who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure, or both, to help manage their weight and improve their health. This 12-week programme is available through referral from GPs and community pharmacies. 

Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion a year, while almost one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs are for diabetes treatment. Projections also show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 extra people suffering a heart attack in 2035, and over 50,000 experiencing a stroke. 

The NHS low calorie diet programme may be suitable for some adults aged 18 to 65, diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the last six years and living with overweight or obesity who also meet other eligibility criteria.