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Towards a U-turn

September 23rd, 2015 | by Danish Association
Towards a U-turn
For Patients
U-turn -joint
It was both a mental and physical demanding journey to reach the Pyrenees for participants in U-TURN.

Training six times a week, healthy eating, focus on more sleep and less stress has made it possible for four people with type 2 diabetes in the TV program U-Turn to lose weight dramatically, throwing their diabetes medications and have normal blood sugar. A hike on 850 km of the Pyrenees helped to give them the belief that they could make a U-turn in their lives along with lifestyle coach Chris MacDonald. But how is it passed them, since filming ended – and one can say they are cured of their diabetes?

By Helen H. Heidemann, journalist at the Danish Diabetes Association.
The article is from the member magazine in May 2013.

Our normal lives is to make us sick. We move too little, eat too much – and wrong – and too busy. In this way, our normal life has become extremely, says lifestyle coach and physiologist Chris MacDonald.

– Our lives and surroundings is today knitted together so that our health is directly hindered. People get lifestyle diseases and need medicines already 40 years old. We need to stop and ask ourselves: What is really normal if I have to have a good life? Therefore I wanted to do an experiment where we set a framework for sick people with lifestyle-related diseases to see what happened, he says.

It was for the TV program U-Turn, currently broadcast on DR1 every Thursday night. Eight Danes who suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, depression and type 2 diabetes receive coaching and training of Chris MacDonald through a half years.

In the middle of the row broadcasting, it is clear that the treatment by way of exercise, healthy diet, focus on sleep and less stress works. The four participants with type 2 diabetes lose weight and three out of four throws all their medication.

One participant, Linda Bak, still get cholesterol-lowering drugs and aspirin at the end of the program, and is to perform an examination of her blood glucose levels, she’s no longer type 2 diabetes, but pre-diabetes.

Went the other three to the doctor to get a health check, the doctor would not discover that they had type 2 diabetes or were at risk of getting it. The question is: Can one say they have been cured, and that their diabetes is gone?


Cured of type 2 diabetes?

Professor, Chief Physician, MD. Tina Vilsbøll, Gentofte Hospital, the medical professionals responsible for the program. She says:

– We have a tradition to say once diabetes, always diabetes, but were the same people come in the door the day the program ended, they would not have been diagnosed. They do not have anything like diabetes at all. They have completely normal blood glucose profiles – except for Linda.

In the United States assesses the American Diabetes Association that has for five years been avoided medicine and met the criteria of having diabetes, then you are basically cured, but the rest of his life at risk again to get diabetes.

– It’s great if one of the participants in U-Turn make lifestyle changes and after half a year still can do without medicine. A year will be impressive and will be lifelong, it’s great, says Tina Vilsbøll.


Dream Scenario

But is it realistic that everyone with type 2 diabetes can do what they do in the U-Turn?

– No, it is totally unrealistic! My dream scenario is that I would be able to offer all patients what they have received in the U-Turn: intensive, personal coaching, individual physical training and help to change food and sleep habits – but unfortunately we can not, even though we know that lifestyle changes make a difference. We have known for many years. Therefore, it is not rocket science, but obviously very impressive and thoughtful that they fare well in U-Turn, says Tina Vilsbøll.

It is essential that none of the participants with type 2 diabetes was especially high in their langtidsblodsukre to begin with. They fluctuated between 5.9 and 6.3% – with or without medication – when they started in the U-Turn. Pressed to their system showed sugar load test that all four had a clear diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

To avoid getting diabetes medications because of participation in the U-Turn, while the other two received metformin, cholesterol-lowering drugs and aspirin at U-Turns start. Participants had had diabetes for a short time – a maximum of seven years at U-Turns start – and no one got more diabetes preparations of insulin or GLP-1-based medicine.

– Had some members have been there in the diabetes disease process, it had been a much more difficult task, says Tina Vilsbøll, chairman of the Diabetes Association Research.


U-Turn consisted of exercise, which was supervised by Chris MacDonald and three other physical trainers. After approximately four weeks, became focussed on the diet, and after six weeks the sleep added. Coaching by Chris MacDonald throughout.

Circuit Training: 60-90 minutes five to six times a week. The primary form of exercise was underway. Duration of the training intensity was recorded using the Polar heart rate monitors.

Strength: Three times a week with 20-30 minutes effective strength training.

Daily physical activity: The goal was 10,000 steps a day and on average, the participants about 9,000 steps a day, which was recorded by a pedometer.

Food: The starting point was to eat food from nature. Non-processed food. Initially, participants were given fish and poultry, vegetables, fruits and nuts, but ate at times 100 percent plant-based diet.

Juices and smoothies, juices and smoothies were part of the participants’ diet plan throughout the process.

Stress: Participants were asked to turn off things with buttons: Mobile, computer and TV for an hour before bedtime to reduce the number of input and to close the shop down.

Sleep: The objective was seven to eight hours of sleep every night, but it varied for each participant. On average, about sleeping participants6.8 hours each night. Participants’ sleep was monitored by use of Sens Wear Bracelet Zeosleep and which can record the time, where the participants are lying in bed and the time in which they actually sleeps.

Participants wrote daily updates about food, exercise, sleep and mental state to Chris MacDonald to make them aware of what they had done during the day, but also because that obligation to other people play a major role.


Drug free is not an end

The criterion of success is not to avoid medication when you have type 2 diabetes, but diabetes is controlled, emphasizes Tina Vilsbøll:

– We know that early treatment and good regulation is really important, so you can live well and long with diabetes without complications. We also know that it is very difficult for most people to make lifestyle changes. Therefore, you should start taking metformin, when you are diagnosed. Go finally home and step on it. If you lose weight and eat healthier, so the figures will be nicer, so we can begin to ease the lid and reduce or alter the medication, which is exactly what is happening in the U-Turn. The medication should not be stopped before one can see the effect of the change in lifestyle and should always be done in consultation with the doctor.

Some are mentally and physically ready to change their lifestyle and drop medicine. Others can maintain a good lifestyle but need medication as support while others need medication and did not manage to change their lifestyle.

– All patients should be supported, and it should not be a cop-out to get medicine, says Tina Vilsbøll.

For Chris MacDonald is no doubt that exercise is a way forward if we are to avoid medication:

– The thing that surprised me the most along the way was how much healthier they were, and how fast it went. It was crazy shocking for me and really shows how strong a medicine exercise is. Exercise can not always replace medication, but be a great complement.

If you manage to change their lifestyle and live without drugs, you must turn not see it as a failure if medication is needed at a time.

– It is not a goal to be drug free, and for most diabetics, the fact is that the pancreas becomes less and less to produce insulin, says Tina Vilsbøll.

– At one time, medication may be inevitable, no matter how healthy a lifestyle you have. Patients who have had type 2 diabetes for many years, dread having to start insulin, but this disease develop many, without having done anything wrong.


He has bared itself

Changes to lifestyle so drastically as participants in U-Turn, it can also quickly go the other way.

– Diabetes comes back with full throttle if they start relaxing workout and healthy food, says Tina Vilsbøll.

Chris -M

The same think Chris MacDonald:

– I almost want to say that all U-Turn participants get sick again. Just to provoke them so much that they will disprove it. But to be honest – I think more and more on their ability to maintain their new lifestyle, I really do.

– I know the participants have a huge strength. They have exposed themselves by going in a television program like this. They have admitted that they are not themselves capable job and needed help. It is enormously difficult to say, ‘I need help. Now they have overcome themselves, and the more times you do it, the more you begin to believe in yourself: That you can. And then succeed you.

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