Innovative diabetes trial launches in south west Sydney

Dietitian Renee Zahar and a patient. Picture: Supplied
Dietitian Renee Zahar and a patient. Picture: Supplied

Campbelltown's Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) has seen 'outstanding results' in clients participating in a trial to show Type Two diabetes remission can be achieved through a weight management program.

Eight Tharawal AMS clients aged 49 to 63 are participating in the DiRECT-Aus research trial in two phases, with clients in the first phase already experiencing weight loss of up to 15kg and improving their glycemic control without the use of diabetes medications.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar known as glucose.

SWSPHN chief executive Dr Keith McDonald said the diagnosed incidence of diabetes had increased by more than 158 per cent in south western Sydney since 2000 and 6.9 per cent residents currently lived with the condition.

"Type Two diabetes is a significant health burden within south western Sydney accounting for 87.1 per cent of all diabetes cases," he said.

"Fairfield local government area (LGA) has the highest rates followed by Campbelltown and Liverpool. Also, south western Sydney has higher prevalence of gestational diabetes than state and national rates."

The trial is a partnership between Diabetes NSW and ACT, five primary health networks, including the South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN), and the University of Sydney.

Dietitian Renee Zahar is part of the specialist team - including a GP and registered nurse - overseeing the project at Tharawal AMS.

She said the trial gave her clients access to a free diet replacement product which caused rapid weight loss, the support of the specialist team and other clients and education about healthy food choices.

"The results have been outstanding," Ms Zahar said.

"With the initial cohort I have seen weight loss of up to 15kg and excellent glycemic control - all without the use of diabetes medications.

"With the second cohort, in just four weeks we had weight loss of up to 7.7kg and a drop in blood glucose levels, again without medication or greatly reduced doses to get started.

"What I am most thrilled about is the positive impact it's had mentally on the clients. Their relationship with food has changed, it's incredible. They are more in control, have greater energy, and are fitter and stronger.

"It has also had a profound impact on their families - family members have lost weight because of healthier food choices."

Five general practices in south western Sydney are participating in the trial.

It is looking to replicate the active arm of the DiRECT-UK Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial which saw Type Two diabetes remission achieved in 67 per cent of participants with weight loss greater than 10kg.

Dr McDonald said SWSPHN was pleased to support the trial by having an active role in supporting local general practices interested in becoming a trial site.

"The trial has also been an opportunity to provide upskilling and capacity building to general practices, to support GPs in identifying patients at risk of type 2 diabetes and embed early weight management strategies into their practice to improve their patient's health and quality of life," he said.