New research shows that 3 months of intermittent fasting reversed type 2 diabetes in nearly half of study participants.
In a recent study, researchers looked at the effects of intermittent fasting on type 2 diabetes. After 3 months, they found that intermittent fasting reversed type 2 diabetes in almost half of study participants . More research is needed on larger populations to understand how intermittent fasting might help reverse type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is a lifelong progressive disease characterized by insulin resistance and high blood sugar. The number of people with diabetes worldwide has increased nearly fivefold, from 108 million people in 1980 to 537 million in 2021. An estimated 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
A broad public consensus asserts that T2D is irreversible. However, some research indicates that this may not be the case. A 2019 study found that 46% of participants achieved remission through calorie restriction. Another 2020 study found that intensive lifestyle interventions led to remission in more than 60% of participants who had had diabetes for less than three years.
Other recent studies have shown that intermittent fasting (IF) can improve insulin resistance in animals. Randomized controlled trialsReliable sources indicate that reduced intermittent fasting is associated with weight loss in people with T2DM. Yet, until now, little research has explored the health benefits of JI in humans with respect to diabetes remission. Further research in this area could prove crucial for the treatment of this disease.
Recently, Chinese researchers evaluated the effects of three months of JI on T2D remission. They found that 47.2% of participants were diabetes-free after three months of intermittent fasting.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Intermittent fasting and T2D reversal
For the study, the researchers recruited 72 participants between the ages of 38 and 72. Each of them had had type 2 diabetes for 1 to 11 years and had a body mass index (BMI) between 19.1 and 30.4.
For information, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered “healthy”, while a BMI between 25 and 30 corresponds to overweight and a BMI greater than 30 corresponds to a obesity. However, the BMI scoring system is not always the best indicator of a person’s overall health.
The participants were then split into two groups of 36 people and were assigned either a JI diet or regular unrestricted eating. The intervention period lasted 3 months and included six cycles of 15 days of intervention. In each cycle, participants were put on a specific, modified fasting regimen for 5 days, during which they consumed a total of 840 calories over the morning, afternoon, and evening meals. For the next 10 days, they ate as much as they wanted of what they wanted, as in the control group.
The diet during the modified fasting days included high-fiber foods that were low-glycemic carbohydrates. Participants were examined at the start of the study, immediately after the 3 month intervention, and again at 3 and 12 month follow-up. They continued to take their initially prescribed diabetes medications throughout the study and maintained their usual exercise habits. After the 3-month intervention, 18 of the 36 people in the JI group and one person in the control group no longer needed their medications to control their diabetes.
The average body weight of participants in the fasting group also decreased by 5.93 kilograms (kg), while those in the control group experienced a weight loss of 0.27 kg. Quality of life scores also increased significantly in participants in the JI group and decreased in the control group.
At the 12-month follow-up, 16 of the 36 people in the “fasting” group maintained diabetes remission. None of the control group members were in remission. Weight loss and quality of life in the fasting group also remained similar at 12 months. Overall, the researchers noted that participants who were prescribed fewer diabetes medications at the start of the study were more likely to achieve diabetes remission.
Mechanisms of intermittent fasting for the treatment of T2D
Researchers have learned over the past decade is that if people lose weight very quickly, by eating the equivalent of about one meal a day, about 45% of people in the early stages of type 2 diabetes are able to stop all their medications and get rid of their diabetes. Rapid weight loss rids the body of fat that accumulates in the liver, pancreas, and muscles, which helps the pancreas produce more insulin, which lowers blood sugar, and also helps the liver and muscles to regulate blood sugar.
Weight loss is an important factor for diabetes remission, fasting could also affect blood sugar control independent of weight loss. Preliminary data suggests that intermittent fasting improves how our pancreas responds to higher blood sugar by releasing insulin. Intermittent fasting also improves insulin sensitivity, or the way our cells respond to insulin’s signal to remove sugar from the bloodstream.
How the 16 hour fast affects T2D
What type of intermittent fasting is best for people with T2D?
A few days a week of 16-hour fasting seems optimal. Prolonged fasting puts the liver at risk of producing glucose, and glucose levels rise in some. Due in part to individual variations in metabolism and personal preference, there is no one approach that is consistently better than another, although the fasting-mimicking diet used in this study may have the most dramatic effect. on reducing insulin levels due to its macronutrient composition and the duration of the 5-day fast.
Another consideration, rarely addressed in basic science articles, is that of the underlying mental health risks to patients. Some patients may be at increased risk of developing eating disorders. For these reasons, it is difficult to have a general recommendation in terms of the ‘best’ intermittent fasting regimen and this is why I recommend personal doctor’s advice.