Free potential treatment lowers blood sugars, helps with weight loss, drops blood pressure and cholesterol, and may add at least 10 years of quality of life.
There have been a number of small studies and research looking into whether or not intermittent fasting can impact the lives of those with type 2 diabetes and possibly prevent diabetes for those with prediabetes. In this small study, three men were referred to the Intensive Dietary Management clinic in Toronto, Canada, and were each using insulin daily to manage their type 2 diabetes.
The participants were a 40-year-old man diagnosed with diabetes 20 years prior to the start of the study; a 52-year-old man diagnosed 25 years earlier; and a 67-year-old man diagnosed for 10 years.
As quitting insulin can cause dangerous shifts in blood glucose levels for people with diabetes, the team gave the participants detailed instructions on how to monitor their blood during the study. The participants were told to stop fasting if they felt unwell.
On fasting days, participants only ate dinner and were allowed to consume as many low-calorie drinks, such as water, coffee, tea, and bone broth, as they wanted. They were told to consume lunch and dinner on the other days. Patients one and three fasted three times a week, while patient two cut his food on alternate days.
Patients one and three completed 24-hour fasts every other day, while patient two fasted three times a week. During this time, researchers measured health markers like blood sugar and weight.
By the end of the study (which patient one followed for seven months and two and three followed for 11 months), all of the participants had lost weight. Patients two and three no longer needed any medication to treat their diabetes, while patient one required no insulin but continued taking one oral medication.
Study author Dr. Jason Fung, of the Department of Medicine, Scarborough Hospital, Canada, stated that, “This study showed that a dietary intervention, therapeutic fasting, has the potential to completely reverse type 2 diabetes, even when somebody has suffered with the disease for 25 years. It changes everything about how we should treat the disease.”
The study was carried out in a small sample size so it needs to be corroborated in a larger population, but if the same results can be replicated, the public health implications could be huge. Such a treatment could chip away at the estimated $327 billion the disease is believed to have cost the U.S. in 2017, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“We can treat type 2 diabetes with a free dietary intervention, that is available to everybody, for free. The amount of savings for the public health system would be astronomical, and patients would be healthier. We are talking about millions of dollars every year, if we can simply spread the right information to the people that need it,” Fung said.
“It is the ultimate in patient empowerment, and the ultimate in savings for public health.”
In recent years, studies supporting and questioning the safety and health benefits of fasting diets have been piling up.
Another study (PREVIEW), presented recently at EASD, showed that fast initial weight loss may be a key to diabetes prevention. The study looked at using low-calorie meal substitutes to help people with prediabetes lose at least 8% of their body weight and then maintain it for 3 years. The investigators reported at EASD that of the 962 participants with prediabetes and who remained in the study at 3 years, 96% had not developed type 2 diabetes and 22% no longer had prediabetes, with no difference among the four intervention groups. In contrast, the proportions without diabetes at 3 years in the DPS and DPP were 91% and 86%, respectively.
- Early time-restricted feeding and intermittent fasting increases insulin sensitivity.
- Intermittent fasting also improves β cell function and lowers blood pressure and oxidative stress.
- Intermittent fasting lowers the desire to eat in the evening, which may facilitate weight loss.
- Intermittent fasting may improve health even in the absence of weight loss.
BMJ Case Reports. Published online October 9, 2018. Full text
For more on intermittent fasting, see Intermittent Fasting and Its Beneficial Effects On The Body. For Dr. Mark Mattson’s intermittent fasting video series and downloadable transcript, watch Dr. Mark Mattson Intermittent Fasting: What is it? Recommend it, an exclusive video discussion with Diabetes in Control.