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EDITIONS
Friday, 4 October, 2002, 00:35 GMT 01:35 UK
Diabetics 'freed from strict diets'
Insulin injection
Some 350,000 Britons have type I diabetes
A new treatment regime for patients with type I diabetes looks set to transform the lives of millions of people with the disease.

A study by doctors in England has found that simple adjustments to the amount of insulin patients take allows them to eat almost anything they wish.

The vast majority of people with the disease currently have to follow strict diets to ensure their sugar levels remain stable.


This is a fantastic breakthrough and offers people with diabetes the chance of a more spontaneous, normal life

Suzanne Lucas, Diabetes UK
Doctors said the breakthrough would enable patients "to fit diabetes into their lives rather than their lives into diabetes".

Dr Simon Heller and colleagues at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield enrolled 169 patients with type I diabetes into their insulin dose adjustment for normal eating (DAFNE) trial.

Slow uptake

The theory that patients with type I diabetes can eat anything they wish as long as they adjust their insulin intake was first developed in Germany.

However, it has been slow to take off in other parts of the world, including the UK. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is currently assessing the programme.

The Sheffield doctors divided the patients into two groups.

The first received training on how to adjust their insulin intake to take account of their changing diet. The second group received their usual treatment.

After six months, the doctors found that those in the first group had more stable blood sugar levels despite the fact that they had to take insulin injections more often.

They also reported greater satisfaction with treatment, general wellbeing and quality of life.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the doctors said the findings had the potential to dramatically improve the lives of people with type I diabetes.

"We have shown in a group of volunteers that skills training in insulin adjustment that provides patients with the ability to fit diabetes into their lives rather than their lives into diabetes improves quality of life and glycaemic control in the short term.

"The DAFNE approach has the potential to reduce the incidence of microvascular complications and thereby protect quality of life in the long term as well as the short term."

They said further research is needed to see if the findings could apply to all patients with type I diabetes. But they estimate that at least half could benefit from this approach.

They added that the programme could help the NHS to save money by reducing the cost of treating patients who develop kidney disease and eye problems.

'Fantastic breakthrough'

The charity Diabetes UK described the findings as "fantastic".

Suzanne Lucas, its director of care, said: "DAFNE has been a liberating experience for people on the trial. Many people found their whole lifestyle and outlook on life has improved following the course and with better diabetes control their worries about complications have reduced.

"Participants also found they were able to travel abroad without worrying about missing a meal or eating on time.

"This is a fantastic breakthrough and offers people with diabetes the chance of a more spontaneous, normal life."

Type 1 diabetes develops if the body is unable to produce any insulin. This type of diabetes usually appears before the age of 40.

An estimated 350,000 people in the UK have type I diabetes.

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The BBC's Karen Allen
"In Sheffield they've redesigned the medication that manages the disease"
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17 Jul 02 | Health
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