Intermittent fasting may help reverse type 2 diabetes, a health issue widely linked to the obesity epidemic.
Diabetes affects about one in 10 people in the United States and Canada. The disease is estimated to cost the US economy alone $ 245 billion per year.
Individuals diagnosed with diabetes face the possibility of suffering complications, which include kidney damage, skin problems, hearing impairment and loss of vision.
Lifestyle changes are key to managing type 2 diabetes albeit this alone cannot always control blood sugar levels. Bariatric surgery has been found effective but this too comes with risk. Drugs, on the other hand, can only manage the symptoms and stave off the complications but do not really stop diabetes in its tracks.
In a study published in BMJ Case Reports, three men with type 2 diabetes were able to reverse their dependence on insulin after following intermittent fasting programs. The findings offer hope for a new approach to treating the condition.
The patients, who were between 40 and 67 years old, tried out planned intermittent fasting with the objective of finding out if this can ease their symptoms. They were already taking various drugs to manage their condition as well as insulin. The patients also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
The patients only ate dinner and were allowed to consume as many low-calorie drinks such as water, broth, and coffee as they wanted on fasting days. On the other days, they were allowed to consume lunch and dinner.
Patients one and three fasted three times a week while patient two cut food on alternate days. Patients one and three also complete 24-hour fasts every other day while patient two fasted three times a week.
All of the participants lost weight by the end of the study. Patients two and three no longer relied on medication to treat their diabetes. Patient one neither required insulin but had to continue taking one oral medication.
“This study show 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,” study researcher Jason Fung, from the Scarborough Hospital in Canada, told Newsweek.
Experts, however, cautioned patients not to try intermittent fasting to treat diabetes without medical supervision.
“Clearly, there is need for caution, because diabetic people are prone to hypoglycemic episodes, and hypoglycemia can be fatal,” Abhinav Diwan, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told CNN. “People do not want to put them themselves at risk by fasting without consulting a doctor.”