In 2020, the NHS launched a year-long medical trial aimed at helping those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes lose weight, a key factor in managing and reversing the condition.
Based on the evidence from two major studies (the DiRECT trial and the Droplet trial) the NHS launched The NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme, also known as the NHS Soup and Shake Diet.
The NHS spends £10 billion treating type 2 diabetes and its complications every year, making effective treatment a major health priority. In recent years, life-changing research has made the hope of finding a solution a reality.
Weight loss is now widely acknowledged as an effective way to achieve remission, with clinical trials showing that of individuals who lost over 15kg of weight, 86% successfully reached remission.
The programme is currently only available in limited areas around the UK and where it is running, numbers are restricted.
The pilot locations in the programme include:
The programme is then set to become available in the following areas in 2022:
The NHS and Diabetes UK are working together to expand the availability of the programme, with further details yet to be released.
While the NHS programme is a new initiative, it isn’t a unique method. The premise behind the programme, a low-calorie meal plan combined with behavioural support for long-term habit change, is exactly what we offer here at Habitual.
Available from as little as £59/month, our flexible meal plans provide a suitable alternative for individuals unable to access the NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme. Find out more about our plans, including cost, duration, and what you can expect to achieve.
Our meal plans help you follow a daily 800 calorie diet using Habitual soups and shakes, your own home-cooked meals, or a combination of the two. With low-calorie recipes, personalised care, private support groups, and our expert behaviour change programme, our app completes your plan and partners with you on your journey to better health.
Everything we do here at Habitual is backed by science. Our plans are based on decades of scientific research and follow the latest practices in type 2 diabetes care, nutrition, and behaviour change science.
Our co-founders, Dr Ian Braithwaite and Napala Pratini, met helping to deliver type 2 diabetes reversal research. They soon realised the potential to help millions of people change their lives for the better by addressing not only weight, but also overall health and wellbeing. This philosophy is central to our mission as we work hard to make better health accessible to as many people as possible.
Those eligible to take part in the NHS programme are provided with ‘total diet replacement’ products for 3 months. These soups and shakes provide around 900 calories a day and participants are also given support to increase their exercise levels.
After this 3-month period participants gradually reintroduce ordinary, nutritious food with ongoing support from expert clinicians and diet coaches.
Participants can also track their progress through virtual one-to-one and group sessions, and will receive digital support to help them maintain a healthy weight.
Both approaches are based on the same scientific evidence but the key difference is accessibility. Thanks to the digital delivery of our behaviour change programme, resources, and support via the app, our programme is accessible to everyone in the UK, no matter where they’re based.
A weight loss of 15kg or more increases your chance of reaching and staying in remission.[1,2]
The full Habitual meal range includes soups, shakes, and porridges in 10 different flavours. Each meal is nutritionally-complete, providing you with everything you need to feel your best while losing weight. The number of meals you eat each day is dependent on the plan you join.
We appreciate that total diet replacement (a shakes and soups diet) isn’t for everyone and that sometimes, life has other ideas. Our three different plans, starting at £59 a month, give you the flexibility you need to confidently follow your plan without compromising on everyday life.
How you make up your 800kcals a day varies with each plan, but you can be sure that no matter what plan you’re on, you’ll also benefit from:
Science underpins everything we do here at Habitual, and our meal plans are no different. Over the last few years, the scientific community has gathered a significant amount of evidence demonstrating the role of weight loss in type 2 diabetes reversal.
Following promising results from smaller studies, the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) set out to determine the role of weight loss in type 2 diabetes remission.
The trial enrolled 306 participants, all of whom had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the previous 6 years. Half of the participants received the existing care plan for type 2 diabetes while the other half followed a low-calorie total diet replacement (TDR) plan before gradually reintroducing food and following a behaviour change programme.
The long-term progress of participants is still being collected but the outcomes from the early years have already changed our understanding of type 2 diabetes care.
After the first year, nearly half the participants (45.6%) on the low-calorie TDR programme were in remission. The amount of weight lost seemed to strongly influence remission, with 86% of people who lost 15kg+ reversing their type 2 diabetes, 57% of those who lost 10-15kg, and 34% of people who lost 5-10kg. After the second year, 70% of those in remission at the 1-year mark were still in remission.
The results of a similar study, published after the DiRECT trial, found similarly astounding results—following a low-calorie TDR and physical exercise programme, over 60% of participants reached type 2 remission.
TDR programmes provide people with around 800 calories a day via a liquid diet but it isn’t the only way to follow a low-calorie diet. A number of reliable studies have gone on to explore whether its possible to achieve the benefits of TDR programmes with an 800 calorie food-based diet. Participants across all three studies achieved a weight loss of 9-11kg, as well as improvements in blood sugar levels and other health markets.[5-7]
Taylor said: “What we have shown is that it is possible to reverse your diabetes, even if you have had the condition for a long time, up to around 10 years. If you have had the diagnosis for longer than that, then don’t give up hope – major improvement in blood sugar control is possible.”
The details of the trials leading the way for the NHS Low-Calorie Diet Programme can be found here:
To join the NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme, individuals must meet initial eligibility criteria, including:
The health and safety of our members is our primary concern, which is why we liaise with GPs prior to starting a plan to ensure all medical needs are covered.
As with the NHS programme, we also only take on individuals who meet a similar set of eligibility criteria:
Diabetes is a condition where blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are too high over a sustained period of time. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of all people living with diabetes in the UK, and is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t respond to insulin as they should.
 Lean, M.E.J., Leslie, W.S., Barnes, A.C., et al. (2018). Primary care-led weight management for remission of type 2 diabetes (DiRECT): an open-label, cluster-randomised trial. Lancet 391(10120):541-551.
 Lean, M.E.J., Leslie, W.S., Barnes, A.C., et al. Durability of a primary care-led weight-management intervention for remission of type 2 diabetes: 2-year results of the DiRECT open-label, cluster-randomised trial. (2019). Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 7(5):344-355.
 Lim, E.L., Hollingsworth, K.G., Aribisala, B.S., et al. Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol. (2011). Diabetologia 54(10):2506-14.
 Taheri, S., Zaghloul, H., Chagoury, O., et al. (2020) Effect of intensive lifestyle intervention on bodyweight and glycaemia in early type 2 diabetes (DIADEM-I): an open-label, parallel-group randomised controlled trial. Lancet 8(6):477-489.
 Astbury, N.M., Aveyard, P., Nickless, A., et al. (2018). Doctor referral of overweight people to low energy total diet replacement treatment (DROPLET): pragmatic randomised controlled trial. BMJ 362:K3760.
 Christensen, P, Meinert Larsen, T, et al. (2018). Men and women respond differently to rapid weight loss: Metabolic outcomes of a multi-centre intervention study after a low‐energy diet in 2500 overweight, individuals with pre-diabetes (PREVIEW). Diabetes Obes Metab 20: 2840– 2851.
 Morris, E., Aveyard, P., Dyson, P., et al. (2019). A food-based, low-energy, low-carbohydrate diet for people with type 2 diabetes in primary care: A randomized controlled feasibility trial. Diabetes Obes Metab 22(4):512-520.