Dubai kung fu master kicks diabetes thanks to drastic weight loss

Austrian John Duval shed 31kg after disease was diagnosed during Covid-19 treatment

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A martial arts instructor is free from diabetes just three months after being given the shock diagnosis as he recovered from Covid-19.

Austrian John Duval, 41, weighed 137kg but thought he lived a healthy, active life until he was struck down and admitted to hospital with the virus in November.

It was then doctors discovered Mr Duval, who lives in Dubai,  had type 2 diabetes.

Thanks to a strict healthy eating and exercise regime that led to him shedding 31kg, he is now in remission, just three months after the diagnosis.

The use of data to understand our patient's health allows us to  prescribe care more effectively

“Without having Covid-19, I would not have known I had diabetes, it was a big surprise,” said Mr Duval, who teaches kung fu at Golden Eagle Martial Arts in Dubai.

“I thought I was super healthy, I trained regularly and tried to eat well.

“When doctors told me I had the disease, I thought it was impossible. They said my sugar level was over 400 and put me on insulin three times a day.

“I was allowed home after two negative PCR tests and I was referred to a diabetic doctor who prescribed special medication.”

While type 2 diabetes has no cure, it can be reversed through dietary changes and weight loss.

It allows people with the disease to reach and maintain normal blood sugar levels, without the need for medication, allowing people to live a normal, healthy life.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Sarwat Nasir. Lifestyle. Martial arts and Tai Chi instructor John Duval. Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
John Duval is a martial arts expert. Chris Whiteoak / The National

On leaving hospital, Mr Duval signed up to a monitoring and treatment programme with diabetes centre GluCare and uses Digital Therapeutics to check his blood sugar levels, dietary intake and exercise.

The Dubai company’s management plan includes a comprehensive assessment and biometric wearable devices to monitor how a patient responds to certain foods.

Users are sent reminders and updates on their health status by trained professionals who remotely monitor the patient’s diabetic status.

“It made me super aware of what I was eating,” Mr Duval said.

“I cut out a lot of foods, including all carbohydrates like rice, pasta and bread.

“I swapped them for lentils and chia seeds, and drank lots of tea and a minimum of three litres of water a day.

“It felt like I was back in school, but I lost 31 kilograms in total.”

Mr Duval now weighs 106kg.

The World Health Organisation estimates 422 million people have diabetes, with 1.6 million deaths directly attributed to the condition each year.

It also expects the disease to increase across the region to affect more than 42 million people by 2030.

Currently, there are about 1.2 million people living with diabetes in the UAE, placing it 15th on a league table of international prevalence.

GluCare’s managing director and co-founder, Dr Ihsan AlMarzooqi, said tailor-made diabetes management programmes could reduce the huge costs associated with long-term care.

“The cost of diabetes is enormous,” he said. “Not only at a societal and economic level, but fundamentally on an individual level.

“While technology is at the core of what we do, it is the application and use of it that allows us to connect with our patients in a more meaningful, impactful and supportive way.

“The use of data to understand our patient’s health allows us to be more present with them in-clinic and prescribe care more effectively.”