Is it possible to naturally reverse prediabetes? (2022)

Prediabetes means that someone’s blood sugar is higher than normal ranges. The condition can increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, there may be ways to reverse prediabetes naturally.

Losing excess weight and exercising regularly are steps that individuals can take to normalize their blood sugar and reverse prediabetes. Other approaches, such as reducing stress and improving sleep, may also help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes, amounting to about 88 million people.

This article describes prediabetes and how it compares to the different types of diabetes. It discusses strategies for reversing prediabetes and offers advice on when someone should see a doctor.

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Diabetes means that someone’s blood sugar levels are consistently too high. Another name for blood sugar is blood glucose.

Someone with prediabetes has higher blood sugar levels than normal, but the levels are not as high as in diabetes.

Typically, a person’s digestive system breaks down food to produce glucose, which goes into the bloodstream. A hormone called insulin helps cells take up the glucose and use it for energy.

Types of diabetes have different causes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: The body’s immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Without insulin, glucose stays in the blood, leading to high blood sugar.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Cells stop responding to insulin, which affects their ability to take up glucose from the blood. This is known as insulin resistance.
  • Prediabetes: Cells may become insulin resistant, or the body may start producing less insulin. Blood sugar levels increase, but not as much as in type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can lead to health problems, including:

Prediabetes increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If an individual has type 1 diabetes, they need daily insulin shots to manage the disease. Scientists have not yet found a way to cure or reverse type 1 diabetes.

Someone with type 2 diabetes may reverse the condition by losing weight. A person is in remission if their blood sugar levels are normal for six months or longer.

However, remission is not a cure for type 2 diabetes because the disease may return.

For someone with prediabetes, steps such as losing weight and exercising regularly can help reverse insulin resistance. These steps may prevent or slow the progression to type 2 diabetes.

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Losing excess weight and exercising regularly are the keys to controlling blood sugar levels. Other measures may help a person manage or reverse prediabetes.

Changing diet

Changing eating habits is a step that may help reverse prediabetes.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommends a low-fat, reduced-calorie eating plan for people who want to lose weight and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

A person should choose foods that are low in added sugars, saturated fat, and trans fat. They should eat smaller portions of foods high in calories, fat, and sugar.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says there is no universal eating plan for people with diabetes or prediabetes.

The Mediterranean diet works well for some people. A person on this plan eats plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They eat moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy. Olive oil is the primary source of fat.

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Eating fewer carbs

Other people with prediabetes may choose a low-carbohydrate eating plan.

Research suggests that low-carb and very low-carb plans help reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In these studies, people on a low-carb diet received 40–45% of their daily calories from carbohydrates.

Getting adequate sleep and treating sleep apnea

A study in Diabetes Care found a link between sleeping less than 5 hours a night or over 8 hours a night and higher blood sugar levels. The study included people with prediabetes or untreated type 2 diabetes who also had overweight or obesity.

Other research suggests a link between sleep apnea and blood sugar control in people with prediabetes.

A study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that blood sugar levels improved in people with prediabetes after receiving 2 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment for their sleep apnea.

Exercising

Regular exercise, such as walking, can help prevent or reverse prediabetes and insulin resistance.

If someone is typically inactive, they can start by taking a 5–10 minute walk on most days of the week, gradually working up to 30 minutes.

Getting up and moving around at least once an hour rather than sitting for long periods may also help.

Losing excess weight

A person with prediabetes and excess weight can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by losing about 5–7% of their weight. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, that works out as 10–14 pounds.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine looked at weight loss in the 6 months following a prediabetes diagnosis. People who lost about 10% of their body weight decreased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the next 3 years by 85%.

For those who lost 5% to 7% of their body weight, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes within three years dropped by 54%.

Stop smoking

Active smokers have a 30–40% higher risk of developing diabetes. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes.

Research suggests that insulin is less effective if people with type 2 diabetes are exposed to nicotine.

Maintaining hydration

Drinking plenty of water may help control blood sugar levels, research suggests. A study in Diabetes Care followed 3,615 middle-aged men and women with normal blood sugar levels. After 9 years, 565 participants had high blood sugar levels, and 202 developed diabetes.

Participants who drank more than a half-liter of water a day had a 28% lower chance of developing high blood sugar than those who drank less water, the study found.

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Avoiding alcohol

Some research suggests that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol may reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while drinking more heavily may increase the risk.

The ADA recommends that people with diabetes or prediabetes drink in moderation if they choose to drink alcohol. Moderate drinking is a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Reducing stress

Stress causes the body to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which may contribute to insulin resistance, according to Diabetes UK. Ongoing stress may lead to high blood sugar levels.

Making time for rest and relaxation can help a person better manage their stress levels. Someone who is anxious about their prediabetes may feel more relaxed if they learn more about the condition through educational materials or a support group.

Working with a nutritionist

The ADA recommends that people with prediabetes work with a registered dietitian nutritionist or enroll in a lifestyle program.

Medical nutrition therapy can help someone lower their blood sugar levels and meet other goals such as losing weight or reducing blood pressure by making changes to what they eat. The dietician considers someone’s food preferences and culture in making eating recommendations.

CDC-approved lifestyle-change programs can help people with prediabetes. The programs assist individuals who are:

  • 18 or older
  • overweight based on body-mass index (BMI)
  • not pregnant
  • not diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes

In addition, a person must meet one of the following to qualify for the program:

  • have a recent blood test with results in the prediabetes range
  • be at high risk for type 2 diabetes based on a risk assessment
  • have had gestational diabetes

People 65 or older may enroll in a Medicare diabetes prevention program. For someone to qualify, they need recent blood test results showing they are in the prediabetes range.

Taking a drug called metformin is another strategy for controlling prediabetes.

Data from the Diabetes Prevention Program suggests taking metformin could delay type 2 diabetes in people at high risk of diabetes. According to the NIDDK, the drug was most effective in women who had diabetes during pregnancy, people with obesity, and younger adults.

The drug may have side effects, including:

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  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • flatulence

Bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, may lead to remission of type 2 diabetes.

Research suggests that the surgery may also benefit people with prediabetes. A study in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology looked at a type of diabetes complication, called microvascular complications, in obese individuals. Fewer of these complications occurred in those who received bariatric surgery compared to a non-surgical group.

A person with prediabetes who is considering metformin treatment or bariatric surgery should discuss the pros and cons of the treatment with their doctor.

A person can take a simple screening test from the CDC to see if they are at increased risk of prediabetes. If the test shows an elevated risk, an individual should ask their doctor about taking a blood sugar test to see whether they have diabetes or prediabetes.

Someone who is having symptoms of diabetes should see a doctor. The symptoms may include:

  • frequent urination
  • extreme thirst
  • blurry vision
  • feeling hungry all the time
  • fatigue
  • slow healing of cuts or bruises
  • tingling, numbness, or pain in the feet or hands

Prediabetes is a condition to take seriously, as it can potentially lead to type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating and staying active, may help someone manage or even reverse prediabetes.

People with prediabetes can ask their healthcare team for tips and resources for reaching their health goals.

Read this article in Spanish.

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FAQs

Can you completely reverse prediabetes? ›

It's common. And most importantly, it's reversible. You can prevent or delay prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes.

Can Prediabetics return to normal? ›

Yes, prediabetes can be reversed. The most effective way to reverse prediabetes, or return to normal blood sugar levels, is to focus on exercise, healthy eating, and losing weight. Some medications may also work to stop prediabetes becoming diabetes, but none have been approved by the FDA.

How much time does it take to reverse prediabetes? ›

Reversing prediabetes

Most people diagnosed with prediabetes develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years. This means you should have time to prevent this from happening. On the other hand, it takes about three years to reverse prediabetes.

Can prediabetes be cured without medication? ›

Fortunately, you can reverse prediabetes. Treatment may include lifestyle modifications, such as diet, exercise, and medication. The first step for managing prediabetes is understanding what a prediabetes diagnosis means.

Can prediabetes go into remission? ›

According to recent research, type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but individuals can have glucose levels that return to non-diabetes range, (complete remission) or pre-diabetes glucose level (partial remission) The primary means by which people with type 2 diabetes achieve remission is by losing significant amounts of ...

How do I no longer become Prediabetic? ›

Some people have successfully reversed prediabetes by modifying their diet and lifestyle.
  1. Eat a “clean” diet. ...
  2. Exercise regularly. ...
  3. Lose excess weight. ...
  4. Stop smoking. ...
  5. Eat fewer carbs. ...
  6. Treat sleep apnea. ...
  7. Drink more water. ...
  8. Work with a dietitian nutritionist.
5 Jun 2020

Should I check my blood sugar if I am prediabetic? ›

Prediabetes means you have higher than normal blood sugar levels. Unmanaged prediabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes doesn't always have symptoms, so it's important to get blood sugar levels tested, especially if you're at high risk.

Does stress cause prediabetes? ›

Stress alone doesn't cause diabetes. But there is some evidence that there may be a link between stress and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Our researchers think that high levels of stress hormones might stop insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from working properly and reduce the amount of insulin they make.

What percent of pre diabetics become diabetic? ›

Around 5–10% of people with prediabetes become diabetic annually although conversion rate varies by population characteristics and the definition of prediabetes.

Does prediabetes always lead to diabetes? ›

Not everyone with prediabetes will go on to develop diabetes. Over the short term (three to five years), about 25% of people with prediabetes develop full-blown diabetes. The percentage is significantly larger over the long term.

What is the main cause of prediabetes? ›

The exact cause of prediabetes is unknown. But family history and genetics appear to play an important role. What is clear is that people with prediabetes don't process sugar (glucose) properly anymore. Most of the glucose in your body comes from the food you eat.

What happens if you ignore prediabetes? ›

Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The good news is that if you have prediabetes, the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program can help you make lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

Can your A1C go down? ›

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to lower your A1C level. Exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood sugar. A single session of exercise can lower blood sugar for 24 hours or more. Get in the gym consistently, and your A1C level will drop as well.

How do you reset your pancreas? ›

The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say US researchers. Restoring the function of the organ - which helps control blood sugar levels - reversed symptoms of diabetes in animal experiments. The study, published in the journal Cell, says the diet reboots the body.

Can A1C be reversed? ›

Some researchers also suggest that A1C can be improved by a low-carbohydrate diet in the absence of weight loss (see a review of evidence here). However, without accompanying weight loss, a low-carb diet may not address the fatigued beta cells that are at the root of type 2 diabetes.

What fruits should a prediabetic avoid? ›

However, fruit can also be high in sugar. People with diabetes must keep a watchful eye on their sugar intake to avoid blood sugar spikes.
...
These include:
  • apples.
  • apricots.
  • avocados.
  • bananas.
  • blackberries.
  • blueberries.
  • cantaloupes.
  • cherries.
29 Mar 2021

How do doctors know if you're Prediabetic? ›

Physicians can use a few different ways to test for prediabetes, including the A1C test, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test or oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A1C results of 5.7 to 6.4 percent, FPG levels of 100 to 125, or OGTT levels of 140 to 199 indicate prediabetes.

Do I need metformin if I am prediabetic? ›

Not everyone will need metformin for prediabetes. People who are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes or who have more risk factors may benefit from metformin therapy. Risk factors include: Having a higher body mass index (BMI)

How often should a prediabetic be tested? ›

If your blood glucose levels are in the normal range, it is reasonable to be checked every 3 years. If you have prediabetes, you should be checked for type 2 diabetes every 1-2 years after your diagnosis.

Who is prone to prediabetes? ›

You're at risk for prediabetes if you: Are overweight. Are 45 years or older. Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes.

Is fasting good for prediabetes? ›

At the same time, intermittent fasting has two noteworthy direct benefits for patients with prediabetes, according to findings of a 2014 study. It lowers blood sugar levels by 3-6% and increases insulin resistance by between 20% and 31%. As such, it helps protect you from developing type 2 diabetes.

Does lack of sleep cause diabetes? ›

Decreased sleep is a risk factor for increased blood sugar4 levels. Even partial sleep deprivation over one night increases insulin resistance, which can in turn increase blood sugar levels. As a result, a lack of sleep has been associated with diabetes, a blood sugar disorder.

How long do most people have prediabetes? ›

The window of opportunity to prevent or slow the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is about three to six years.

How long can prediabetes last? ›

The window of opportunity to prevent or slow the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is about three to six years. Make sure you take the following steps to be on the right path to fight prediabetes and take the appropriate steps to lower your blood sugar level.

Should a prediabetic take medication? ›

Will I need medication? For some people with prediabetes, diet and exercise are not enough—or they have a very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Medications that might be used to treat prediabetes include: Metformin.

Videos

1. Reverse Prediabetes with lfestyle changes
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2. Dietitian Shares the PERMANENT Solution to REVERSING Prediabetes Naturally {HINT - FOOD}
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3. 6 Tips to Lower Blood Sugar & Reverse Prediabetes Naturally (Without Medication)
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4. 3 Ways to Reverse Prediabetes | WebMD
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5. Reversing Diabetes - Dr.Ravi Sankar Endocrinologist MRCP(UK) CCT - GIM (UK)
(Dr.G Bhanu Prakash Animated Medical Videos)
6. How I Reversed My Pre-Diabetes | Kate Kowalczyk | TEDxDePereMiddleSchool
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