WASHINGTON — Intermittent fasting, which many celebrities follow and champion publicly, could really be a cure for Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers with the Endocrine Society say patients who ate intermittently ended the need for painful insulin injections. Average blood sugar levels fell to less than 6.5 percent in a year — which doctors define as complete remission of diabetes.
Time-restricted eating (TRE) has become extremely fashionable, even for those who don’t have the metabolic disease. Celebs like Gisele Bundchen, Jennifer Aniston, and Scarlett Johansson go without food between certain hours or on specific days.
“Type 2 diabetes is not necessarily a permanent, lifelong disease. Diabetes remission is possible if patients lose weight by changing their diet and exercise habits,” says Dongbo Liu, PhD, of Hunan Agricultural University in Changsha in a media release.
The Chinese team put dozens of diabetics on an intermittent fasting program. After three months almost 90 percent were able to reduce their medication usage. Over half discontinued therapy and maintained the improvement for at least 12 months.
“Our research shows an intermittent fasting, Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy (CMNT), can lead to diabetes remission in people with Type 2 diabetes, and these findings could have a major impact on the over 537 million adults worldwide who suffer from the disease,” Liu adds, who published the findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
“Diabetes medications are costly and a barrier for many patients who are trying to effectively manage their diabetes. Our study saw medication costs decrease by 77% in people with diabetes after intermittent fasting.”
What makes intermittent fasting so healthy?
With intermittent fasting, dieters only eat during a small window during the day. They then fast for a certain number of hours each day or just eat one meal a couple days a week. Previous studies have shown that the popular diet can help the body burn fat, but others have found even more health benefits.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego say when a group of mice restricted their eating to an eight-hour time period, their risk for the development, growth, and metastasis of breast cancer declined.
Time-restricted feeding is a variety of intermittent fasting in alignment with circadian rhythms. Study authors conclude it can help improve both metabolic health and tumor circadian rhythms in mice suffering from obesity-caused postmenopausal breast cancer.
“Time-restricted eating has a positive effect on metabolic health and does not trigger the hunger and irritability that is associated with long-term fasting or calorie restriction,” says study first author Manasi Das, PhD.
Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine say not only can the gut microbiome influence heart health, how people eat can determine whether those organisms help or hurt blood pressure levels. When it comes to diet, their study finds intermittent fasting can actually reshape the gut health of people with hypertension.
“Taken together, the study shows for the first time that intermittent fasting can be beneficial in terms of reducing hypertension by reshaping the composition of gut microbiota in an animal model,” says Dr. David Durgan, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Baylor. “Fasting schedules could one day help regulate the activity of gut microbial populations to naturally provide health benefits.”
A team from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California says an intermittent fasting diet could help protect older people from falls and other injuries by building up their muscles.
Professor Satchidananda Panda says the intermittent fasting diet enabled male mice to preserve and add muscle mass and improve muscle performance. Study authors did not observe the same effect in females.
“This was our first time studying female mice, and we weren’t sure what to expect,” adds Dr. Amandine Chaix, an assistant professor at the University of Utah. “We were surprised to find that, although the females on TRE were not protected from weight gain, they still showed metabolic benefits, including less-fatty livers and better-controlled blood sugar.”
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.