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Rank Prize

2024 Rank Prize for Nutrition awarded to Professor Roy Taylor

Published on: 14 November 2023

The Rank Prize for Nutrition has been awarded to Prof Roy Taylor for his groundbreaking work on dietary approaches to type 2 diabetes remission, transforming the lives of thousands.

Founded in 1972 by the British industrialist and philanthropist Lord J. Arthur Rank, the prestigious Rank Prize is awarded biennially in the fields of nutrition and optoelectronics.

Professor Roy Taylor and Professor Mike Lean at Glasgow University are the winners of the 2024 Rank Prize for Nutrition.

Their research has furthered understanding of how type 2 diabetes develops, and has shown for the first time that remission from type 2 diabetes is possible for some by following a low-energy weight management programme. Their research is transforming services for people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The Prize will be awarded formally at an event in London on 1 July 2024.

Professor Roy Taylor, Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University said: “I am delighted to receive this recognition on behalf of the physicists, doctors, nurses, dietitians and others who have provided fantastic team input over many years of this research thrust. The work would not have been possible without the selfless research volunteers, especially those in the initial Counterpoint study who took a leap in the dark in the interests of science.

Without the research funding, type 2 diabetes would still be regarded as a lifelong, inevitably progressive condition — a life sentence — and hence particular thanks are due to Diabetes UK who funded most of the work, with lead-in support from The Wellcome Trust and The NovoNordisk Foundation. This funding has enabled testing of a seminal hypothesis and expansion to the present NHS England programme for remission of type 2 diabetes.”

Prof Roy Taylor

Their work in practice

Type 2 diabetes has long been associated with overnutrition and obesity. Professor Taylor began researching possible reasons for this independently after both he and Prof Lean observed some patients appearing to lose their type 2 diabetes after losing weight.

Professor Taylor recognised that body fat was being stored in abnormal sites within organs in people with type 2 diabetes, and developed and validated a new clinical weight management programme to offer more effective weight loss in routine primary care.

The Counterpoint study led by Professor Taylor in 2011 confirmed that individuals susceptible to type 2 diabetes held excess fat in their liver and pancreas, leading to insulin resistance and the dysfunction of pancreatic insulin-producing beta cells. His research found that when people with type 2 diabetes lost weight, fat was lost from the liver and pancreas, and these organs regained function. Improvement was particularly significant when weight loss took place early on in the course of type 2 diabetes.

The charity Diabetes UK brought the two researchers together to design and conduct the DiRECT trial (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial), in which people with type 2 diabetes living with overweight or obesity replaced their usual meals with nutritionally complete formula diet products, followed by the gradual re-introduction of normal food, delivered in UK primary care. On average, participants sustained a weight loss of 10% at 12 months, and almost half of participants had put their type 2 diabetes into remission at one year. A quarter of participants lost 15kg or more, and of these, 86% were in remission. More recently the teams have shown that this intervention is also successful in people with a lower body weight, and that it is effective in people of South Asian origin.

Why the work is important

A programme based on the approach of DiRECT has been piloted by NHS England and is now being rolled out across England: the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme. Over 5,000 individuals have been offered the intervention, with early results expected in the near future. The work has been recognised internationally, and the approach is already included as a treatment option in the Joint American Diabetes Association and European Association for the Study of Diabetes Standards of Care document.

The research of Professor Lean and Professor Taylor is making a real difference to the lives of people with type 2 diabetes, by giving them the support and services to manage their health and reverse the effects of this serious condition.

Professor John Mathers, Chair of the Rank Prize Nutrition Committee said:“The ground-breaking research by Professors Taylor and Lean has shown that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is not a life sentence. Their demonstration that type 2 diabetes can be put into remission by sustained weight loss will empower millions of people globally to change their eating behaviour and to improve their health. In addition, Taylor and Lean’s discoveries will make a major contribution to reducing the economic and social burden of diseases associated with overweight and obesity.”

Find out more about Professor Taylor's work as he writes about his scientific research and discovery

(Adapted with thanks to the Rank Prize)


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