Intermittent fasting pattern has been studied in diabetic people called as the early time restricted feeding diet.
Three men with type 2 diabetes were able to stop insulin treatment altogether after following intermittent fast, but experts are warning that people shouldn’t try such a diet plan without any medical supervision.
A small study published in BMJ Case Reports inspected at three men between the ages of 40 and 67 who tried random fasting for about 10 months.
All of the men were able to stop insulin treatment within a month after starting the intermittent fasting. One of the men was able to stop insulin treatment only after five days of this fasting method.
“This study shows that a dietary interruption — therapeutic fasting — has the possibility to completely cure type 2 diabetes, even when somebody has suffered with the disease for 25 years. It changes everything about how we should treat the disease,” Dr. Jason Fung, author of the study and director of the Intensive Dietary Management Program, told Healthline.
Fung’s statement that type 2 diabetes can be reversed is opposite to the views of other diabetes experts who spoke with Healthline.
“It’s probably dangerous to tell patients their diabetes has been reversed or cured, because one is always at risk for continuation, even if not being treated by medication,” Dr. Matthew Freeby, director of the Gonda Diabetes Center in Los Angeles and the associate director of diabetes clinical programs at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, told Healthline.
Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief medical officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Massachusetts, agrees with Dr Freeby.
“We don’t think of reversing it, but more that it is in remission. Still require to monitor for complications as far as we know,” he told Healthline.
What happens with diabetes
More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 to 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes.
In a person with type 2 diabetes, cells become insulin resistant and don’t respond usually to insulin, which helps in regulating the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.
“When we take carbohydrate containing foods such as breads, cereals, pasta, starchy vegetables, dairy rice sweets, the body digests the carbohydrates into simple sugars. The pancreas simultaneously receives a signal to release insulin. Insulin is released into the bloodstream and transports suger or glucose into cell then glucose is used as energy source. ” Lauri Wright, PhD, assistant professor of public health at the University of South Florida, told Healthline.
“Without proper functioning of insulin as we see in type 2 diabetes, some of the single sugars deposit in the blood and aren’t able to provide cells with energy,” she said.
High blood sugar levels can be harmful to the body and cause other health problems, such as kidney problems, vision disturbance, and heart disease.
Type 2 diabetes may be controlled by healthy eating and exercise. Some people may get recommended insulin injections to help reduce blood sugar levels.
Results from the study
In Fung’s study, three men tried intermittent fasting to see the effect it had on their diabetes.
Two of the men fasted every second day for 24 hours. The third man fasted for three days per week week.
On days when the men fasted, they were allowed to drink low-calorie beverages like, tea, coffee,lime water and broth. They were also allowed a low-calorie food at night.
“Fasting is exactly the oldest dietary intervention known to mankind, having been used for several years from ancient time and having been part of human culture and religion for at least as long,” Fung said.
“The thing that surprised me most was how fast patients got improved,” Fung added. “Even after 25 years of diabetes, the maximum time it took to gave off insulin was 18 days. All three patients upgraded their diabetes to the point that they no longer needed insulin, and it only took from 5 to 18 days in this study,” he said.
“Imagine taking insulin for 10 years, and all that time, somebody could have treated you with intermittent fasting, and you would not have required to take insulin regularly for the last decade,” Fung said.
Fung acknowledged his study is small and more research is required.
Some cautionary words
All of the experts who spoke with Healthline need awareness when explaining the results of such an anecdotal study.
“To many people with diabetes, such a study result can be recognized as insulting,” Raquel Pereira, a registered dietitian specializing in diabetes, told Healthline.
“People with diabetes already suffer from the disease prognosis, complications, and restrictions. Imagine hearing that the way that they can manage or control this disease is to then withhold themselves of nutritious foods, which give health benefits as well energy and pleasure,” she said.
“As researchers, we must spend our efforts into solutions that are more reachable and have a more positive health effect for the vast majority of people with diabetes,” Pereira added.
She says fasting for a person with diabetes can be probably dangerous and needs medical supervision.
“The research in fasting is minimal or small, and we surely need more well-controlled research trials to find out if there are any benefits, but mainly who might benefit,” Pereira said.
“Disordered eating patterns are very common in diabetes, and I would be very worried about the long-term outcome of fasting. Many people may feel low energy, tiredness,low mental concentration, low reflexes, headaches, lower immunity, and because of these their quality of life and productivity suffer,” she said.
Wright says fasting doesn’t always have a positive impact for people with diabetes.
“For diabetic patients, mainly on insulin, fasting can lead to hypoglycemia(reduced blood sugar level). We see some people that fast or go for long periods of time binge-eat when they restart eating, which disruptive or ineffective for diabetes,” she said.
“A study such as this gives us hints for further research,” Wright added. “The research overall on intermittent fasting in diabetics is confined and needs to be elaborated before we can make suggestions supporting fasting.”
A small study of three men with type 2 diabetes showed they were able to stop insulin dose after intermittent fasting.
However, experts say more research is required, and people shouldn’t undertake such fasting without talking advice from their doctor or healthcare provider.