The American Diabetes Association report that the total estimated cost of treating diabetes is now over $200 billion per year.
Lifestyle changes are crucial to managing the disease, and eating habits play a key role. Doctors normally recommend that people with diabetes follow specific diets.
The effects of a specific diet may differ from person to person, but in general, those with diabetes should avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates.
Intermittent fasting could be a way to manage diabetes through diet.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of diet in which people cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It does not specify the foods that are allowed during the eating window.
The most common type of fasting is known as the 16:8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours and reducing the eating window to just 8 hours. For example, a person can have dinner at approximately 7 p.m., skip breakfast the day after, and eat lunch at around 11 a.m.
Other forms involve fasting for 2 days per week, 24-hour fasting once or twice each week, and fasting every other day.
Researchers used intermittent fasting as a method to reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in a new observational study conducted in Canada and published in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
“The use of a therapeutic fasting regimen for treatment of [type 2 diabetes] is virtually unheard of,” the authors of the study write.
Intermittent fasting’s effects on diabetes
Before the study, the men attended nutrition seminars, which gave them information regarding the development of the condition, its effects on the body, and how to use diet to manage diabetes.
Then, scientists asked two of them to fast for 24 hours every other day, while the third fasted for 3 days each week. During fasting days, the men could drink low-calorie beverages such as water, tea, or coffee. In addition, they could eat a low-calorie meal in the evening.
The trial lasted 10 months in total, and the three men stuck to their schedule without encountering any difficulties. After the fasting period, the team measured their weight and blood glucose.
The results revealed significant improvement: all three lost weight, blood glucose was lower, and they were able to stop using insulin after a month from the beginning of the trial. In one case, the person stopped after only 5 days.
Two of the men also discontinued all diabetic drugs, while the third participant stopped 3 out of 4 drugs.
The authors concluded that intermittent fasting may help people with diabetes, but the study was limited to three participants. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but they are encouraging.
“This present case series showed that 24-hour fasting regimens can significantly reverse or eliminate the need for diabetic medication,” conclude the authors.