Woman forming heart shape with hands over abdomen after reversing diabetes with weight loss

Can Diabetes Be Reversed with Weight Loss?

Written on June 28, 2023 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Because people who are overweight or living with obesity are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, many wonder whether weight loss can reverse diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes is a complex disease for which there is no cure yet. While weight loss, following a healthy diet, and increasing physical activity are all vital to lowering your risk for developing diabetes, actually reversing diabetes is not as simple as you might hope. [1] This short guide can help you understand the role of weight loss in diabetes treatment and prevention plans.

Weight Management is a Part of Diabetes Treatment Plans

Whether your diabetes treatment plan includes a recommendation for weight loss depends upon what type of diabetes you have. There are four main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes. Diabetes mellitus is the medical name for this group of conditions that impact your body’s ability to process sugar (also called glucose once it is inside your body). [2]

Humans have an organ called the pancreas which secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps your cells use sugar (glucose) from what you eat and drink for energy. Without insulin, sugar is locked out of cells and hangs out in your bloodstream, causing high blood glucose or blood sugar levels. [2]

Type 1 diabetes is different from the other three types. It can not be reversed or go into remission because people with type 1 diabetes can not make any insulin at all. [3]

In contrast, people with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes can make some insulin, but over time (or during pregnancy), their body becomes resistant to the “unlocking” action of insulin delivering sugar into body cells. This is called insulin resistance.

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for your healthcare provider to diagnose you with type 2 diabetes. [1] Prediabetes and increasing amounts of fat tissue around your middle increase your insulin resistance. [4]

Type 2 diabetes tends to be chronic, meaning people will need to take medicine and check their blood sugar levels for the rest of their lives. [2] In contrast, gestational diabetes (or diabetes during pregnancy) and prediabetes are reversible. [2]

All types of diabetes can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes like increased physical activity and following a healthy diet. [2]

Why Can’t Type 1 Diabetes Be Reversed with Weight Loss?

Type 1 diabetes can’t be reversed, no matter how much weight a person loses, because their pancreas can’t secrete insulin. Researchers believe that in type 1 diabetics, their immune system mistakenly attacks their own pancreas (called an autoimmune reaction) and permanently damages their pancreas. [3]

That does not mean, however, that maintaining a healthy weight is not important for staying healthy and living longer if you have type 1 diabetes. Avoiding obesity with type 1 diabetes helps improve insulin sensitivity and reduce your risk of diabetes-associated health complications like heart and kidney disease. [4]

Insulin sensitivity describes how well your muscles, fat, and liver cells respond to insulin’s unlocking action to use excess sugar more effectively and lower blood sugar levels. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin, but if they are obese, they may need more insulin to keep their blood sugar levels healthy. [4]

Weight Loss and More Physical Activity Can Reverse Prediabetes

If you have prediabetes and are overweight, losing a small amount of weight and getting regular physical activity can help return your blood sugar to normal values. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with prediabetes lose at least 7% to 10% of their body weight to prevent disease progression. [5] That translates to around 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.

Getting regular physical activity goes hand in hand with successful prediabetes prevention. The CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes of brisk walking or similar activity weekly. [1] That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Getting regular physical activity increases your chances of losing weight, boosts your heart health, and makes you more likely to keep the weight off.

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

Weight Loss Can Send Type 2 Diabetes into Remission

Weight loss, if you already have type 2 diabetes, will also help you live healthier for longer. The more weight you lose, the greater the health benefits. Losing weight through making lifestyle changes (i.e., diet and exercise) or from medical management (obesity surgeries or weight loss medications such as the GLP-1 agonists) can return your blood glucose levels to a nondiabetic range. [5] Putting your prediabetes or gestational diabetes into remission can minimize or prevent future health problems.

Other benefits of losing at least 7% to 10% of your body weight and keeping it off include [5]:

  • Lowered HbA1c levels (indicating better, healthier blood sugar levels over time)
  • Improved control of your blood sugar levels in the normal range (called glycemic control)
  • Decreased need for blood glucose-lowering medications (which translates into financial savings for you!)
  • Reduced insulin resistance and increased insulin sensitivity
  • Better cardiovascular (heart) health
  • Lower chance of dying from diabetes-related complications

When it comes to weight loss and diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight is always good news. The bad news is that losing weight and maintaining that lower weight is hard. Unfortunately, weight loss fails about 95% of the time, and two out of three people who lose weight by dieting gain back more weight. [6] That is where newer, more effective treatment strategies that can help people with obesity and diabetes come into play.

Everlywell Can Help with Sustainable Weight Loss for People at Risk for Diabetes

Prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes are more common in people who are overweight or obese. For people with obesity looking for more effective weight management strategies, lifestyle changes or short-term diets may not be enough. Newer medications like the GLP-1 agonists pack a two-for-one punch because they can simultaneously help people lose weight and lower their blood sugar levels. [7] Obesity increases your risk of chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. So for some people, weight management with medications may be a matter of life and death.

The Everlywell Weight Care+ program can offer you comprehensive, convenient, and effective health care if you are struggling with your weight and seeking healthy solutions for living longer. Their virtual weight care program includes access to GLP-1 prescriptions for qualified candidates, regular one-on-one virtual visits with a licensed provider, and quarterly at-home lab tests and supplements, all from the privacy of your own home.

Just wondering whether you might have prediabetes or how to test for diabetes? You can get an HbA1c Test to check in on your levels and get clear insight. Everlywell wants to help you take control of your health, whether you have diabetes or might be at risk for this common health condition.

How to Lose Weight with Type 2 Diabetes

Best Way for Diabetics to Lose Weight

Type 2 Diabetes Medication for Weight Loss: Key Points to Know


  1. Prediabetes: your chance to prevent type 2 diabetes. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html. Published December 30, 2022. Accessed June 10, 2023.
  2. Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444. Published May 3, 2023. Accessed June 11, 2023.
  3. Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes. https://hopkinsdiabetesinfo.org/diagnosis-of-diabetes/. Accessed June 11, 2023.
  4. Insulin resistance. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22206-insulin-resistance. Published December 16, 2021. Accessed June 11, 2023.
  5. American Diabetes Association. 8. Obesity management for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2021. Diabetes Care. 2021;44(Suppl 1):S100-S110. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33298419/.
  6. Ge L, Sadeghirad B, Ball GDC, et al. Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials [published correction appears in BMJ. 2020 Aug 5;370:m3095]. BMJ. 2020;369:m696. Published 2020 Apr 1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32238384/.
  7. Castro, R. GLP-1 agonists: Diabetes drugs and weight loss. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/expert-answers/byetta/faq-20057955. Published June 29, 2023. Accessed June 11, 2023.
Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More