The efficacy, safety, and effect on cardiovascular risk factors of two intensive weight loss programmes in overweight Type 2 diabetic subjects were studied. The patients were recruited from hospital diabetic clinics and control obese subjects from the community. Obese (BMI >30) patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus and controls were offered intensive conventional diabetic advice or a very low calorie diet. Weekly 2 h sessions were conducted in two day-room areas of adjacent medical wards of Torbay Hospital. Non-diabetic and diabetic very low calorie diet groups reduced BMI by 6 and 5 kg m(-2), respectively, at 1 year. Waist-hip ratios (-0.06 and -0.05) were also reduced (p = 0.04 and p = 0.01), while HDL/total cholesterol ratios increased (+0.04 and +0.06, p = <0.01). Transient changes in blood pressure and antioxidant vitamin status occurred in the intensive conventional diet group. Fourteen of diabetic very low calorie diet subjects discontinued insulin and oral hypoglycaemic agents for the whole year, and psychological well-being transiently improved. Substantial weight loss and improvement in cardiovascular risk factors could be maintained for 1 year in Type 2 diabetic patients by the use of a very low calorie diet.