SAN FRANCISCO and WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A ketogenic diet combined with remote monitoring through a mobile app could reverse Type 2 diabetes, according to a recently published study by Virta Health in Diabetes Therapy.
The study also showed that the treatment could improve other chronic metabolic diseases without medication or surgery intervention.
Virta Health, in collaboration with Purdue University and IU Health, has been conducting the ongoing five-year trial. The published study included one-year outcomes of 349 patients with Type 2 diabetes.
A control group of 87 patients elected to receive usual care provided by their own physicians and dieticians following the American Diabetes Association recommendations; the other 262 patients elected to adopt individualized, low carbohydrate, high fat nutrition, while being connected to a health coach and physician via a mobile application with educational resources.
The study focused on five points: access to a health coach, a physician for medication management, biomarker feedback, nutrition and behavior change education, and an online community.
“We feel that it is really important to support a patient in many different ways,” said Dr. Sarah Hallberg, the study’s principal investigator, in a statement. “Making lifestyle changes can be hard, but the ability to ask questions whenever necessary provided patients with a support system to stay on a potentially life-changing program.”
The dietary intervention promoted non-starchy carbohydrate sources with a moderate protein intake, which enabled patients to sustain nutritional ketosis, where the body uses fat as its primary fuel source instead of glucose. Patients also interacted with their health coach or physician through the mobile app, sometimes multiple times per day.
“Due to the unique structure of the trial and use of telemedicine, we helped prevent any significant hypoglycemic events,” Hallberg said. “Instead of patients scheduling an office visit, they could log their blood sugar and ketone levels in the app. Then, both the patient and I could track their levels and make adjustments accordingly.”
Of the study’s 262 intervention patients, 83% remained in the program. The patients also showed an average decrease of 1.3% in hemoglobin A1C, a marker that represents a person’s average blood glucose over the last three months. In addition, patients saw a 12% weight loss during the year.
The findings demonstrated a reversal in diabetes progression, Hallberg said.
“Our results push against the accepted norm that A1C cannot be improved while taking patients off of medication,” she said. “Our trial shows we did both—sometimes in a matter of weeks—and sustained and even improved results at one year. Establishing the right intervention and remote support resources is critical for our treatment approach.”
Virta Health has opened an office in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette that will be led by Hallberg. Other collaborators include the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles; Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Genetics, St. Louis; and Ohio State University, Department of Human Sciences, Columbus, Ohio. Any individual with Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes can sign up for the Virta Treatment.