Study finds people with diabetes who fast intermittently may no longer need medication
After an intermittent fasting diet intervention, patients achieved complete diabetes remission, defined as an HbA1c (average blood sugar) level of less than 6.5% at least one year after stopping diabetes medication, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Intermittent fasting diets have become popular in recent years as an effective weight loss method. With intermittent fasting, you only eat during a specific window of time. Fasting for a certain number of hours each day or eating just one meal a couple of days a week can help your body burn fat. Research shows intermittent fasting can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
“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, China. “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.”
The researchers conducted a 3-month intermittent fasting diet intervention among 36 people with diabetes and found almost 90% of participants, including those who took blood sugar-lowering agents and insulin, reduced their diabetes medication intake after intermittent fasting. Fifty-five percent of these people experienced diabetes remission, discontinued their diabetes medication and maintained it for at least one year.
The study challenges the conventional view that diabetes remission can only be achieved in those with a shorter diabetes duration (0-6 years). Sixty-five percent of the study participants who achieved diabetes remission had a diabetes duration of more than six years (6-11 years).
“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,” Liu says.
The other authors of this study are Xiao Yang of Hunan Agricultural University, the State Key Laboratory of Subhealth Intervention Technology and Changsha and Tourism College in Changsha, China; Jiali Zhou of Hunan Agricultural University and the Department of Shizi Mountain Primary Care in Changsha, China; Huige Shao and Bi Huang of Changsha Central Hospital in Changsha, China; Xincong Kang of Hunan Agricultural University, the National Research Center of Engineering Technology for Utilization Ingredients From Botanicals and the Hunan Provincial Engineering Research Center of Medical Nutrition Intervention Technology for Metabolic Diseases in Changsha, China; Ruiyu Wu of Hunan Agricultural University and the State Key Laboratory of Subhealth Intervention Technology Achievement Application Center in Changsha, China; Fangzhou Bian of the University of California Irvine in Irvine, Calif.; and Minghai Hu of Central South University in Changsha, China.
The study received funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
The manuscript, “Effect of an Intermittent Calorie-restricted Diet on Type 2 Diabetes Remission: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” was published online, ahead of print.
The Endocrine Society’s Hormone Holiday Tips resource discusses intermittent fasting and other ways to stay healthy during the holidays.