Exercise is being pitted against diet in a straight contest to find out which results in better diabetes control and the effect on heart function as part of new research in Leicester.

NIHR-funded researchers in the city will be examining the impact of a low calorie diet compared to a fitness regime.

The question is being posed because they want to look at the effects of diet and exercise on the heart in people with Type 2 diabetes.

The condition linked to lifestyle has been found to have subtle effects on the pumping function of the heart, even at young ages - but the reasons for this are currently unclear.

The study has been funded by the NIHR as part of a research fellowship for Professor Gerry McCann, Consultant Cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital. The project titled 'DIASTOLIC' is a collaboration between two research teams, the NIHR Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), based at Leicester Glenfield Hospital and the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity BRU, which is located at the Leicester Diabetes Centre at Leicester General Hospital.

Professor Melanie Davies CBE, who is the Director of the Leicester-Loughborough Diet BRU as well as a Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: "Many of the effects of Type 2 diabetes have been shown to be reversible, for instance following weight loss or after bariatric surgery. At present, however, we do not know if the same applies to the changes seen in the heart.

"This study is aiming to discover exactly how Type 2 diabetes causes changes in the heart's structure and function using MRI scans. We will be looking to improve the heart's pumping function by using either a weight loss program with a special low calorie diet, or with a structured program of exercise."

Professor McCann also explained why the study was so important. He said: "Heart disease is the commonest cause of death in patients with diabetes and they are at least four times more likely to develop heart failure. We need to find treatments that can effectively reverse heart damage in patients with diabetes to reduce their risk of complications and death."

Study participants will either be eating a structured diet consisting of 810 calories a day and not being physically active or taking part in a 12-week exercise programme without dietary restrictions.

People taking part in the study are between the ages of 18 and 60 and have Type 2 diabetes and are overweight.

Anybody interested in the study contact a member of the research team by calling 0116 258 3385 or emailing DiastolicStudy@uhl-tr.nhs.uk.