New Evidence for Long-term Type 2 Diabetes Reversal in Clinical Trial and Real World Settings
“I feel like I am in the bonus round of my life. I am walking the trails at our cabin, I am kayaking on the lake, I am down on the floor with my grandkids.” - Kim
“Through Virta, I not only reversed my diabetes, I got my life back.” - Jane Ann
Those quotes are from our patients Kim and Jane Ann, two of our clinical trial patients who describe Virta better than we ever could.
Their descriptions stand in stark contrast to what the 130 million people with either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes typically hear: diabetes is a progressive, chronic disease, and all you can do is try to eat less, exercise more, and take an ever-increasing load of medications. If they are lucky, these same people will still get worse, just a bit more slowly, too often leading to a host of miserable outcomes: amputations, blindness, dialysis, and even death.
Virta was founded to change this unnecessary fate. For the past 7 years, we have been writing the science on diabetes reversal and remission. Along the way, we’ve shared 10 week, one year, and two year publications, and now, 5-year preliminary data in the pursuit of answering three questions. First, is type 2 diabetes reversal possible? Second, is it sustainable? Third, can it work for a variety of populations?
This weekend, at the American Diabetes Association 82nd Scientific Sessions, we took another step forward with the presentation of eight new scientific abstracts, covering preliminary 5-year data (duration that is rare in any behavior-based intervention, digital or otherwise) from our controlled, prospective clinical trial, and 2-year real-world outcomes from our partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In both populations, the message is clear—a lifetime of increased medications, weight gain, worsening blood sugar, threat of catastrophic outcomes, and overall decline in quality of life should no longer be considered the norm with type 2 diabetes. Sadly, this is the expectation with status quo diabetes care.
Yet, our patients experienced the opposite. In our 5-year data, total medications were cut in half, while blood sugar improved on average. Half of people taking insulin no longer needed it at all. Weight loss, even after 5 years, still exceeded the 1-year benchmark for FDA-approved drugs by 50%. A third of patients reversed diabetes at 5 years. Prediabetes was halted in the vast majority of patients, too, with many of those patients also reversing their condition.
Moreover, diabetes wasn’t the only condition that got better. Virta patients improved triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, markers of inflammation, and even showed encouraging signs in markers of CKD (chronic kidney disease)—again, all sustained in those treated at five years. In previous research, we already showed lasting improvements in markers of liver function, cardiovascular risk factors, knee pain, sleep, and even reduction in depressive symptoms.
In other words, people are turning back the clock and getting their lives back from the grip of type 2 diabetes. They are riding bikes with their kids. They look forward to being able to chase around their grandkids. “I never knew how bad I felt until I felt good” is something we’ve heard from multiple patients. So many, including VA patient Lester, are filled with energy to once again do the things they love.
Looking beyond the results, we often hear the question “well, it’s a lifestyle intervention, so do people really stick with it?” The answer is clear: 72% of those living with type 2 diabetes were retained between 2 and 5 years, or just under 50% from the start of the trial 5 years ago. Medication persistence (someone continuing to take their medication) varies by drug class but typically dips below 50% sometime between one and three years. Effectively, people may be more likely to stick with Virta than continuing to take a pill. Even looking more broadly, retention in the National Diabetes Prevention Program—considered the gold standard for lifestyle interventions—was only 13%—at one year, let alone 5!
We are thrilled by the results, but as we repeat internally, it’s still Day One: as we collect more and more patient data, we get better at treatment individualization, making new discoveries, and helping even more people succeed. We have a phenomenal start and there is only upside in the future.
There is so much more to tell about our patients, about the data, and about what we’ve learned delivering diabetes reversal across the nation. We’ll explore more of this in the full research manuscripts. The big picture, though, should be clear: it is time to redefine what success looks like for type 2 diabetes care, from “you’ll get worse, just more slowly,” to “you can reverse your disease and get your life back.” Just ask Carole, Greg, and Brian.