How Effective Is Intermittent Fasting For Diabetes Treatment?

How Effective Is Intermittent Fasting For Diabetes Treatment?

Martin AlvarezByMartin Alvarez
Updated on 8/14/2022

Since the beginning of this decade, fad diets and celebrity blogs have been raving about the benefits of intermittent fasting. Although popularity has gone, the scientific community has made significant strides, with clinical trials focused on the potential for fasting regimens to treat and potentially reverse type 2 diabetes (T2D), the most common form of diabetes (90 percent to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2).

Early research indicates that specific fasting regimens, when carried out with a particular goal in mind, may help lessen the symptoms of diabetes and treat some of the underlying reasons for the condition. However, the technique is not appropriate for everyone, and many dietitians and physicians continue to caution about its adverse effects on a person's metabolic health and blood sugar levels.

Is it possible that intermittent fasting for diabetics might be a helpful supplement to managing diabetes for you or a loved one? You may assist yourself in deciding by arming yourself with the knowledge that applies to your situation and having an open conversation with your physician.

What Does It Mean To "Fast" Intermittently?

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a broad term frequently used without discrimination. However, at its most general level, it refers to either completely abstaining from all food and caloric beverages for some time or significantly restricting intake of food and caloric beverages during that period.

May break down intermittent fasting into two primary categories: time-restricted eating and periodic fasting (PF) (TRF). There are other fasting-mimicking diets (FMD), in which participants consume particular foods intended to affect the body that is analogous to that of fasting. The most common kinds of IF are broken down below in further detail.

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting is the most basic kind of fasting, in which you abstain from all or most of your regular food and beverage consumption for a certain amount of time. We refer to the practice of abstaining from food during a religious ceremony as the fasting observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, which lasts from sunrise until sunset each day, or Jews during the holiday of Yom Kippur, which lasts for approximately 25 hours.

Common approaches to PF, like those done for treating diabetes or obesity, sometimes utilize a modified version of fasting rather than a pure fast. In a 5:2 diet, participants restrict their calories on two days of the week that are not consecutive (typically 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men) and then eat freely on the remaining five days of the week. 
There are other more stringent methods, such as "fasting" on nothing but water (also known as "water-only fasting") for twenty-four hours or longer. These diets often have the highest risk profile; however, following them safely when under the care of a physician is possible.

Feeding That Is Restricted By Time

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

The term "time-restricted feeding" describes what it sounds like: limiting the amount of time spent eating each day, often to no more than 12 hours. For instance, your eating window may be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (a 14:10 schedule, which means that you would be fasting for 14 hours and then eating for 10 hours), or it could be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (a 16:8 schedule). During the allotted time, you are free to consume anything you desire. During the hours of the fast, you are only allowed to drink water and liquids that do not contain calories, such as black coffee and tea.

Fasting-Mimicking Diets

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

Diets meant to simulate the effects of total fasting are referred to as fasting-mimicking diets (FMDs), and they involve the consumption of particular foods and beverages in restricted quantities. Just one fasting-mimicking diet has been clinically evaluated (with research published in a peer-reviewed publication) and is now available on the market.

This diet is called ProLon. This five-day program offers meals that contain specified combinations of macro- and micronutrients. These foods supply sustenance to the body, but the body does not perceive them as food. In other words, you can consume food, and your digestive system will continue to function normally. Still, your meals will not be registered by your body's metabolism (your master energy regulator). The diet is vital in fat and low in carbohydrates, and participants should expect between 700 and 1100 calories per day. 


Diabetes Patients Can Benefit From Fasting

  1. People who have type 2 diabetes may gain benefits from fasting in the following ways:
  2. Accelerate the removal of fat while keeping your muscle mass intact
  3. Reduce the chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body
  4. Increase your body's responsiveness to insulin.
  5. Improve cholesterol
  6. Enhance your body's cardiometabolic wellness.

Intermittent Fasting and Type 2 Diabetes

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

It may be good to briefly review type 2 diabetes (T2D) to understand how and why fasting can successfully treat the condition. A person is said to have type 2 diabetes if they have persistently high blood glucose levels and diminished sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Insulin is a hormone that assists the body in using carbohydrates as a source of fuel. Both genetic predisposition and lifestyle variables, such as food, exercise, sleep, stress, and environmental exposures, contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Chronic low-grade systemic inflammation levels are a hallmark of type 2 diabetes. Take, for example, a bump on the elbow; the early inflammation that occurs is your body's way of attempting to protect you. When you have a chronic illness such as type 2 diabetes, your body has continuously high amounts of inflammatory immune cells, which can, in turn, cause the condition to become worse. You have entered a vicious cycle consisting of diabetes and inflammation at this point.

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

The state of diabetes, characterized by high blood glucose levels, may bring on complications such as raised cholesterol and heart disease, which contribute to the cycle of inflammation and diabetes. Although it might appear impossible, it Can break the cycle.

The treatment of type 2 diabetes should not only focus on reducing blood sugar levels but also on improving insulin sensitivity, chronic inflammation, and cardiovascular health; in other words, reversing the mechanisms that contribute to type 2 diabetes would be helpful.

The regimens for fasting seek to achieve precisely that. The process referred to as a metabolic shift is one of the significant ways they are effective. In a normal state, your body will save carbs in the form of glycogen in the liver. However, if these energy reserves start to run low, your body will rely more and more on free fatty acids for energy. This metabolic flip results in an increased generation of acids known as ketones as well as the activation of critical enzyme pathways inside the body (a state known as ketosis). These pathways and their metabolites are responsible for several beneficial effects, including reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar levels, and improving insulin sensitivity.

In light of those physiological advantages, it could appear that the longer you stay in the fasting state, the better off you will be, but this is not always the case. According to Stephen Anton, Ph.D., Chief of the Clinical Research Division at the University of Florida's Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, "There is an ideal amount of time for anyone." It can stress the body by fasting, exercising too much, or drinking too much water. "It is also possible to put too much stress on the body by drinking too much water."

Fasting Diets And Diabetes

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

The Many Varieties Of Diabetes-Friendly Intermittent Fasting

Through the many pathways presented earlier, it has been demonstrated that all forms of IF have some positive effects on type 2 diabetes. However, the extent of the benefits varies, and each has a unique risk profile. Dr. Anton elaborates, "None of us are the same." "Factors such as the speed of the metabolic process, levels of insulin sensitivity, levels of underlying cellular health, and levels of activity will all influence the depletion of glycogen reserves and when the usage of ketones as energy begins."

The Benefits And Risks Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

Periodic fasting for 24 hours or longer may significantly influence cellular repair2 and autophagy compared to other fasting methods (clearing out of old and damaged cells). The synthesis of testosterone10 and the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis11, which helps to control metabolism, might be negatively impacted by prolonged fasting, which is one of the drawbacks of fasting for extended periods.

In women, prolonged fasting periods are associated with an increased risk of developing gallstones and may impede digestion.

A modified fast, such as the 5:2 diet, might be beneficial for reducing digestive difficulties; however, it may not provide all of the metabolic benefits associated with being in a fasting state. Last but not least, abstaining from any liquids other than water during a fast (as well as refraining from water entirely during a quick) can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects, such as lethargy, nausea, sleeplessness, headache, dizziness, back pain, gallstones, and heart palpitations.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Time-Restricted Feeding

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

Time-restricted feeding was shown to have several metabolic benefits in studies conducted on animals and in a few limited clinical trials involving humans. These benefits included an improvement in insulin sensitivity, a reduction in inflammation, a decrease in body weight, and an improvement in cholesterol levels.

One advantage of time-restricted feeding is that, compared to periodic fasting, it enables the body to move between metabolic states with a lesser chance of experiencing adverse side effects such as dizziness. One potential drawback is that limiting one's eating to such a brief window of time can be challenging. According to a research overview published in the journal iScience in the year 2020, attempting to jam all of your daily meals into one window may cause you to make bad food choices. Especially true if you are pressed for time. ¹⁶

The Pros And Cons Of Following A Diet That Resembles Fasting

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

FMDs can deliver similar advantages to true fasting while carrying a far lower risk. Compared to a control diet that did not restrict the participants' dietary intake, researchers found that three cycles of ProLon (one 5-day cycle per month for three months) reduced body weight by an average of 5.7 pounds and waist circumference by an average of 1.6 inches.
Additionally, the diet mimicked fasting was found to have favorable benefits on total body fat and blood pressure.

"What we're looking for with the fasting-mimicking diet is a rejuvenated [metabolic] profile," said Valter Longo, Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California-Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles.

FMDs have been demonstrated to offer great potential in their capacity to treat insulin resistance, according to research conducted by Longo and colleagues (insulin insensitivity). 

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

Other regimens that simulate fasting have been demonstrated to be effective in clinical studies but are not readily available to the general population. For instance, a recent Phase I/II clinical research investigated the effectiveness of a diet that simulated fasting as an additional therapy for cancer patients. Patients who participated in the study had a high tolerance to the procedure and saw a reduction in their body fat mass and an improvement in their insulin profiles.

Before You Dedcide To Attempt Fasting

Is It Possible That Intermittent Fasting Could Be the Answer to Your Diabetes Management?

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

It all depends on what works for your lifestyle. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinology states that fasting may work for some people but not everyone. They cite a small experiment that lasted for one year and demonstrated better cardiometabolic parameters in women who followed a diet similar to the 5:2 diet. 

The Association of Diabetes Care and Educational Professionals cites mixed research results in people with type 2 diabetes and recommends that individuals with diabetes monitor their glucose levels during any fast because fasting may bring on hypoglycemia. These recommendations are based on the fact that fasting may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). 

If you choose to include fasting into your lifestyle in the form of intermittent fasting, make sure to contact your health care team and begin with baby steps. It is important to remember that time-restricted eating, periodic fasting, and any modified variants of these are all variations on the theme of varying the times you consume food. What you put in your body is still important. It has been established that some eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, benefit diabetes, and general health. Note that a diet mimicking fasting is only used as an intervention for a short time (typically five days), and it needs the purchase of a program that has been scientifically tested, like Prolon.

Who Should Not Try To Break Their Fast?

Who Should Not Try To Break Their Fast?

The practice of fasting is not suitable for all individuals, nor is it ideal for all times. It is not recommended that pregnant persons, children, people who suffer from specific chronic ailments, or those with a history of eating problems try to fast. You may need to discontinue the practice of fasting if it causes you to experience symptoms such as dizziness, heart palpitations, or difficulties with your digestive system. If this is the case, visit a medical professional.

Intermittent Fasting And Type 1 Diabetes

It is important to remember that the benefits of IF that were covered before apply mostly to type 2 diabetes. The safety of IF diets for patients with type 1 diabetes, which accounts for 5–10 percent of all occurrences of diabetes, has not been thoroughly established. Fasting with type 1 diabetes can lead to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5–10 percent of all cases of diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes and are interested in trying intermittent fasting for weight loss or another reason, talk with your health care provider(s) first, as you will need to adjust your insulin and take additional precautions. If not, avoid IF altogether. If you have type 2 diabetes, you will not need to make any adjustments to your insulin and will not need to take any additional precautions.

Intermittent Fasting for diabetes

The takeaway is that intermittent fasting is a risk-free strategy for most people to enhance their metabolic health when practiced for shorter periods. When beginning a fasting regimen, it is essential to take things carefully at first and pay attention to how your body reacts to the change. The most important thing is to understand how your body reacts to varying eating schedules and to make efforts toward gradually reversing the underlying mechanisms that contribute to type 2 diabetes. Understanding how your body reacts to different eating schedules is the most important thing.