Intermittent fasting can reverse type 2 diabetes in half of patients within three MONTHS, study finds
- Diet involved eating 840 calories for five days, then 10 days of eating normally
- Study found 33% managed to reverse condition and remain free of it a year later
- Experts caution study was very small – involving just 36 people – and quite short
Fasting for five days at a time could help some people reverse type 2 diabetes, a study suggests.
It is increasingly fashionable to try the 5:2 diet, fast on alternate days or eat within an eight-hour window each day to lose weight.
Now another type of fasting diet appears to overcome type 2 diabetes, based on the results from a small Chinese study.
The strict regime involved five days of eating only around 840 calories a day, followed by 10 days of eating normally.
Fasting for five days at a time could help some people reverse type 2 diabetes, a study suggests (stock)
The foods on offer for each meal during the fasting period, which required only boiling water to be added, included ‘nutritional rice’, a meal-replacement biscuit containing black beans, maize and oats, and fruit and vegetable gruel.
Among 36 people on this diet for three months, almost half managed to reverse type 2 diabetes and remain free of it a year later.
The study was extremely small and it is important to follow the participants up for more years, as high blood sugar can often return.
But the results add to evidence from a trial led by the University of Newcastle in the UK, which found almost half of people on an extremely low-calorie diet of soups and shakes could drop their blood sugar to a level where they were no longer considered diabetic.
This approach, which has been piloted by NHS England, is planned to be rolled out nationwide.
Dr Dongbo Liu, senior author of the study from Hunan Agricultural University in Changsha, China, said: ‘Diabetes remission is possible if patients lose weight by changing their diet and exercise habits.’
Commenting on the results, Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University, said: ‘Although there have been studies to show low-calorie diets and low-carbohydrate diets can help people with type 2 diabetes achieve remission, this relatively small study is the first to show the use of intermittent fasting.’
But he said it was impossible to say if fasting, rather than simple weight loss, was responsible for putting type 2 diabetes into remission, adding: ‘There is no one best dietary approach to manage type 2 diabetes or bring about remission – it is the diet that is most suitable for that individual living with type 2 diabetes.’
Around 3.7 million people in the UK are known to have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and an unhealthy diet.
The Chinese study recruited people who had lived with the condition for one to 11 years, and who were aged 38 to 72.
Half tried the intermittent fasting diet over three months, while the others ate normally.
The 36 people who fasted lost an average of almost 6kg (13 pounds), while the others 36 lost only 0.27kg (0.6 pounds) in average.
Three months after completing the diet, 17 out of 36 people who fasted had reversed their type 2 diabetes, compared to only one out of the 36 who ate their usual diet.
A year after completing the diet, 16 out of 36 out of the people on the fasting diet – 44 percent – were still in remission from type 2 diabetes.
Remission, the medical word for reversing diabetes, was defined as having an average blood sugar level of less than 6.5 per cent at least one year after stopping diabetes medication, according to the study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
People with type 2 diabetes who are thinking about changing their diet or wonder if they might be able to put their diabetes into remission should speak to a health professional to discuss the potential effects on their medication.
Supporters of intermittent fasting say it is simpler than calorie-counting, so may work better to lose weight.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves switching between days of fasting and days of eating normally.
Intermittent fasting diets generally fall into two categories – time-restricted feeding, which narrows eating times to 6-8 hours per day, also known as the 16:8 diet, and 5:2 intermittent fasting.
The 16:8 diet is a form of intermittent fasting, also known as Time Restricted Eating.
Followers of the eating plan fast for 16 hours a day, and eat whatever they want in the remaining eight hours – typically between 10am and 6pm.
This may be more tolerable than the well-known 5:2 diet – where followers restrict their calories to 500–to-600 a day for two days a week and then eat as normal for the remaining five days.
In addition to weight loss, 16:8 intermittent fasting is believed to improve blood sugar control, boost brain function and help us live longer.
Many prefer to eat between noon and 8pm as this means they only need to fast overnight and skip breakfast, but can still eat lunch and dinner, along with a few snacks.
When you do eat, it is best to opt for healthy options like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
And drink water and unsweetened beverages.
Drawbacks of the fasting plan may be that people overindulge in the hours they can eat, leading to weight gain.
It can also result in digestive problems over the long-term, as well as hunger, fatigue and weakness.