Many times overeating can help bring on type 2 diabetes.

It turns out that the opposite — a strict diet — might be the answer to that progressive, debilitating disease.

In a study published in the current issue of Diabetes Care, researchers say an extremely low-calorie diet can mitigate and sometimes eliminate the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

The idea is simple enough.

Participants lost weight — one of the chief causes of diabetes — and also ate healthy foods that didn’t exacerbate insulin problems in their bodies.

The experiment was done more than four years ago. The results were published this month after following up with the participants.

Read More: Get the Facts on Type 2 Diabetes »

Drinking Milkshakes, Eating Vegetables

The researchers at Newcastle University in England created an extreme diet plan for 30 people with type 2 diabetes.

The patients drank diet milkshakes three times a day and ate 200 grams of nonstarchy vegetables, according to a story on qz.com.

Their daily intake was 700 calories. The program lasted eight weeks.

The average weight loss for the volunteers during the eight weeks was 33 pounds, according to qz.com.

In addition, nearly half of the participants had no symptoms of type 2 diabetes for six months after they went back to eating normally.

Most of the volunteers who had their symptoms eliminated had had diabetes for less than four years, according to qz.com.

One of them is Richard Doughty, who still has no symptoms of the disease after four years.

Doughty eats 1,700 calories a day but also follows a strict exercise program.

He has written about his success in a blog in The Guardian.

“I’ve learned to enjoy my shift in lifestyle, and I like a whole range of food I didn’t know about before,” Doughty wrote.

Read More: Fitness and Diet for Type 2 Diabetes »

Not Standard Treatment Yet

The researchers said they aren’t sure why the strict diet technique works.

They theorize that the weight loss removes excess fat from the pancreas and liver. That, in turn, kick starts insulin-producing cells to normalize sugar levels.

The researchers said more long-term studies with a larger pool of participants need to be done.

Susan Weiner, a registered dietitian-nutritionist and CDE certified diabetes educator, agrees.

She told Healthline the results are encouraging, but she’d like to see them duplicated on a bigger scale in other research.

“Their study shows what calorie restriction can do,” Weiner said, “but it’s not what happens in the short term. It’s what happens in the long term.”

Weiner added that another element to a diet-based treatment for type 2 diabetes is how well a participant sticks to it.

She said she’d like to know if the volunteers in this study were given reminders or if their family members were providing support.

“There are a lot of variables,” she said.

She noted that an exercise program should always be meshed with a diet plan. Participants should also drink lots of water.

“People still need to have a proper lifestyle,” she said.

Even with all that, some people with type 2 diabetes still need to take oral medication or even undergo bariatric surgery to keep symptoms under control.

That, Weiner explained, is because diabetes is a progressive disease that can become more severe with age. Remedies that have worked in the past may not work as the disease intensifies

“You sometimes need a lot of tools in your arsenal,” said Weiner.

Read More: 29 Things Only a Person with Diabetes Would Understand »

No Small Problem

Finding a cure or, at the very least, a simple, effective treatment for diabetes is no small matter.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people worldwide with type 1 and type 2 diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.

This means that the disease now affects 8.5 percent of the adult population around the world.

The agency notes diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.