London, May 23 : Giving newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients a short course of intensive insulin therapy may delay disease progression, according to a Chinese study.
In the Lancet trial, patients who had an early course of insulin injections did better after a year than those given a short course of oral diabetes drugs.
Later on, all 380 patients were managed with the standard diet and exercise regime.
According to Diabetes UK, the new approach might be useful for some patients.
For the study, patients aged 25 to 70 participating in the trial were given an infusion of insulin, daily insulin injections or oral anti-diabetic tablets.
The participants got the treatment only for two weeks after normal blood glucose levels were achieved.
Most of the patients given insulin were able to meet blood glucose targets in four to five days as compared to nine days in those given oral drugs.
A year later, 51 percent of patients given an insulin infusion and 45 percent of those given insulin injections had maintained their good blood glucose levels by sticking to a diet and exercise programme.
However, only 27 percent of those who had initially been treated with oral drugs still had good blood glucose control.
The study showed that the early insulin treatment seemed to have restored the function of insulin-producing beta cells in the body.
After conducting tests, researchers found that the cells had a better response to insulin after treatment and the effect was sustained after a year.
Lead author Professor Jianping Weng, said good diabetes control - especially early intensive blood sugar control - can eliminate the damage caused by high blood sugar levels and rescue injured beta-cells.
Pav Pank, care advisor at Diabetes UK, said that having good diabetes control is key to diabetes management and also helps prevent people with the condition from developing life-threatening complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, amputation and blindness.
"The research shows that considering using insulin early when people are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes might be an additional way to achieve good diabetes management," BBC quoted Pank, as saying.
"Nevertheless decisions about treatment need to be made on an individual basis for each patient," Pank added.
Professor Rury Holman, head of the Diabetes Trial Unit at Oxford University, said that more information was required on different measures of diabetes control before a change in practice could be advocated.