How diabetes patients from Havant have improved their symptoms through diet
WHEN Donal Collins, a GP of 27 years, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago he felt ‘embarrassed and ashamed.’
The dedicated healthcare professional from Lee-on-the-Solent had built his career on helping others stay fit and well, but suddenly realised he hadn’t been keeping healthy himself.
‘I was shocked,’ the 57-year-old recalled.
‘It was a moment of great humility. Here I was as a health leader and I had a totally preventable long term condition myself. I felt embarrassed and ashamed.’
But fast forward to 2021 and Donal is now leading a Havant-focused programme that is helping 30 diabetes patients reduce their symptoms successfully - and mainly by adapting their diet.
He said: ‘In the beginning I was taking all the medication I was told I needed to manage my symptoms.
‘But one day I was introduced to a new concept by two patients, both from south Asia, who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
‘I said “you need medication” and they said “let us try something first”.
‘Within six months they had their diabetes in remission.’
His patients had followed a ‘whole, single ingredient’ diet that encourages people to intake as many natural nutrients as possible, avoiding processed foods.
This means natural fats are fine to consume, although foods with hidden sugars such as bread and pasta are to be avoided.
With nothing to lose, Donal thought he’d give it a try himself.
‘Within two weeks I started to feel better,’ he said.
‘And in six months my blood had gone into a non-diabetic range.
‘My diabetes is currently in remission but I am still on a journey.’
After forming the company Barlow Collins upon his retirement, Donal was able to share this diet through a partnership with the Homewell Practice, at the Havant Health Centre.
The programme, that launched almost exactly a year ago, is run via a weekly online session and includes a talk from an expert, a panel discussion and some kind of meal preparation on a livestream.
Through it the participants can learn more about their condition and how to use the diet in their daily lives.
Information regarding participants’ blood pressure, HbA1c (blood sugar levels) and weight were taken at the start of the programme and measured every four months to contribute towards a study.
So far, within the first four months, patients have seen an average drop in blood sugar levels of 23.6 per cent, weight loss of 6kg and a drop in blood pressure of 7.3 per cent.
One participant who has found the programme to be a success is 66-year-old Charlie Eames from Havant.
He said: ‘I went to the doctors for standard check-up and they asked me if I would like to take part and I thought I’ve got nothing to lose so why not. My HbA1c was 86 and it’s down to around 43 now. The problem is HbA1c means nothing to me because it’s a medical term but the fact it’s in half if incredible.
‘At the start of this programme my weight was 124kg and my last weight in at the doctors was 108.6kg which is astounding over the period. I feel so much better. I’ve lost 11 centimetres on my waist. It’s cost me a fortune in new clothes but it’s been worth it.
‘My liver was pretty much shot to pieces according to my liver specialist, I had extreme fatty liver disease and now the content of fat in my liver has reduced remarkably and hopefully it will continue going down. My blood pressure was a little high when I started. It’s well in the normal range so I’m quite happy with that.
‘If you have diabetes and you think you would like to get shot of it I would say definitely do this programme as it’s worked for me and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for you.’
Now Donal hopes the programme can be shared with more patients in need, and is in talks with primary care networks.
He added: ‘So far we have managed to reduce significant amount of medications and early June we will have our first four-month blood results back which will answer whether the intervention has had real impact on metabolic measures.
‘Then if we can do it with a group who would be viewed as the hardest to reverse, imagine what could be achieved with an easier group.’
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition, with almost five million people living with it in the UK.
It is also more common than type 1 diabetes, affecting 90 per cent of those with diabetes.
It causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high and it is often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of it.
To find out more about the study visit barlowcollins.co.uk.
‘I think this has literally saved my life’
PEOPLE living with type 2 diabetes say they ‘feel so much better’ in themselves since signing up to the study.
39-year-old Mark Tudge, from Havant, said: ‘Before I started this programme my health was not great. I was 18 stone 4 at the beginning, I was struggling to put my socks on or tie my shoelaces, even walking up the stairs was a bit of a struggle. Once I started this things improved slightly. My weight has come down from 18 stone 4 to 15 stone 9 so far so about two stone 9, my pre-diabetic HbA1c number was 46, coming down to 42, my energy levels have improved brilliantly. I now want to get out of bed and do things. I feel so much better in myself.
‘Someone was always on the end of an email or I could phone up and speak to my GP surgery at any point.
‘My sleep has improved. I seem to feel better, more refreshed now when I wake up in the mornings, actually want to get out of bed. My outlook on life is so much better since I started doing the programme. I think this has literally saved my life. The way I was going I was told in a few years I’d be in stroke and heart attack territory.’
Nicky Holford, 52, also from Havant agreed. She said: ‘My HbA1c has gone from 93 to 55.
‘I’d lost a bit of weight, I had actually got down to 100kg then with the plan I’ve got down to 88kg so I’ve lost a lot of weight.
‘My liver profile, I was always told I had an uber fatty liver, that’s gone from 63 down to 17.
‘It really has helped my mental health too as I do suffer from depression. I’ve seen quite a lot of benefits especially in weight loss I’m chuffed to pieces. I’d tell people to do it I wouldn’t hesitate.
‘I’m trying to get some of my friends to go down the route with me.’