The governments new plans for the fight against type 2 diabetes

You may have seen the recent announcement from Health Secretary Matt Hancock. As of 1st September 2020, 5,000 type 2 diabetes sufferers will be doing a 12-month trial of a “soup and shake weight loss plan”.


I’m not going to go into detail on what exactly type 2 diabetes is in this post, I want to get straight to the point of this new intervention.


I have seen fitness professionals on social media, all over the country take a deep sigh, followed by a few swear words. What I imagine most of them have done is read the headline of the soup & shake diet and looked no further. So here you go, this is what I have found.


From the NHS press release, we know the following about the trial;

·      It is a ‘total diet replacement product’

·      They will be provided with shakes & soups for 3 months

·      Provide support to increase exercise levels

·      Offer managed plans to introduce ordinary, nutritious food over time

·      Ongoing support from clinicians & coaches after that

·      The support will be via virtual one-to-ones, group sessions and digital support





Now for the shock factor, here are a few figures worth sharing on type 2 diabetes. A good indicator of why something needs to be done.


Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion a year.


Type 2 Diabetes represents 10-15% of the total health costs in developed countries.


Almost 1 in 20 GP prescriptions written is for diabetes treatment.


People with type 2 diabetes are 2 times more at risk of dying from coronavirus.


People that are obese (closely linked to type 2 diabetes) are 113% more likely to be admitted to hospital with coronavirus and 74% more likely to need intensive care treatment.


A previous trial showed this “soup and shake diet” to help almost half of subjects into remission. 





What I have tried to do is take my coaching hat off for this one. Of course, we will always be biased towards training and eating well for fat loss and health improvements. Having said that, it’s hard to look past it in this case but I’ve tried my best to add some balance.


I’ll start with the few positives from the little information I’ve seen on the program, other than “the soup and shake” sounding like a cool new dance move;

·      A very low calorie diet (VLCD) has previously been shown to be a successful intervention for the morbidly obese.

·      It’s a 12-month intervention. Which is better than “here’s a 2-month supply of shakes, away you go”.

·      They will finally provide support to increase exercise levels (but they haven’t said HOW).

·      They will have accountability and support from a professional (but they haven’t said WHO).

·      The huge calorie deficit will show these people that they don’t NEED all of the food they are eating and break some terrible habits


If someone was to put a gun to my head and say lose 2 stone in 6 weeks, then this might be a good way to go. But other than that, I’m struggling for any other scenarios where this is our best option.


So there’s some balance, now let me go back to having a good whinge about it….


I have said this so many times about the government’s health plans, but WHY DON’T THEY EVER CONSULT WITH LEADERS IN THE INDUSTRY?!


Any self-respecting professional in health, fitness, nutrition or medicine would tell them that restricting foods & calories this much is not healthy for the body or mind. The previous study mentioned where half of the subjects on this magical diet managed to go into remission from type 2 diabetes is a little deceiving for me. Having looked into it, it was funded by ‘Cambridge Weight Plan UK’ – makers of the Cambridge diet. Now what is this diet? It’s a VLCD meal replacement product, of course!


Scientific research should never be biased, otherwise it’s completely pointless. If this isn’t biased, then I don’t know what is.


The good news is that they recognise that these people also need to be encouraged to exercise and eventually move onto nutrient dense, whole foods. Great. But if they recognise it, then why are they waiting 3 months to put them onto normal foods, why don’t they just stop wasting their time and do that from the start?


And being encouraged to exercise is a great thing, but how do they expect participants to have the energy to do anything other than pick up yet another can of soup at the end of the day. When you’re consuming very little calories a day of basically just fluids, exercising will be the last thing they want to do.


The previous study had subjects on an 810kCal per day restrictive diet. Bearing in mind these people were all clinically obese, their calorie deficit would be in the thousands. If they didn’t lose weight on a deficit that huge, then something would be seriously wrong, so yes you would expect fast results. 


What I would like to know is another year after the intervention, how many of them are still in remission from diabetes, and how many of them have a healthy relationship with food?


The definition of remission is “a temporary decrease of the severity of disease or pain”. We don’t want temporary; we want changes for life.


The only way to do that is to help give these diabetes patients education and understanding on how to live a sustainable lifestyle, have a good relationship with food and STAY healthy.




My other issue is for people looking on that aren’t involved in the intervention. This gives them the idea that this is the way to lose weight healthily, but they won’t have any of the support that the people involved have. Chances are they will give it a go, have enough of drinking shakes all day and having no energy and give up after a few weeks. Meaning they will be in a worse position than when they started.


I am glad that the government have recognised exercise as being an important component. However, I would like to see what they mean by providing “support to increase their exercise levels”. Hopefully in due time they give some more information on this. Because aside from giving potential exercise novices access to good coaching and more accountability, I’m not sure what would be a successful intervention.


Perhaps subsidised gym membership, but where is the accountability and support in that? Type 2 diabetes generally is a result of poor lifestyle choices, I would hazard a guess that in most cases, affording a gym membership definitely isn’t the issue.



This is a slight step forward in our fight against diabetes and obesity, but a slight step back at the same time. The government have shown that they are willing to put time, money and professionals into this fight, but it’s the same story again and again. The same errors we see with individual people we speak to every week, is now being promoted on a nationwide scale by our own government.


And as ever it’s our NHS resources that have to implement this. I really hope I am wrong, and this trial is a resounding success, and they put some great minds behind the support of the people taking part. The situation they are in is not an enviable one, but the 5,000 participants need to play their part, too. They have to take responsibility for their own health and do everything they can to make it a success.

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