Diet and Nutrition

Fasting May Be Good for Diabetes, Research Shows

Fasting May Be Good for Diabetes, Research Shows

Intermittent fasting is common nowadays, and recent studies have shown that there are successes involved with this type of fasting. The most success about the fasting involves diabetes, and perhaps, it is the most impressive. Intermittent fasting involves restricting eating to certain times and not all the time. Scientists came up with the idea of intermittent fasting after seeing the effects seen after restricting constant calorie intake. Several studies conducted on different animals found that restricted eating contributed to great improvements in general health and life expectancy. 

Researchers don't know what causes these improvements, but an explanation could be that fasting gives the cells the time to perform repair and maintenance. Also, fasting makes the cells to look for other alternative energy sources. The alternatives include ketones, and they appear beneficial. Ketones are created from the liver when fat is recycled.

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‘Fasting’ without fasting

Constant calorie restriction is not practical. Imposing this to lab animals can seem easy, but humans cannot impose upon themselves. However, maintaining constant calorie isn’t that necessary as intermittent fasting could have same benefits.

Time restricted feeding and periodic fasting are the two types of intermittent fasting. Time restricted feeding involves eating during few hours within a day. For instance, one can choose to eat between 11 am and 6 pm. Periodic fasting includes alternating unrestricted eating and eating very little. Unrestricted eating takes extended periods while eating little takes short periods. Data doesn’t show if one type of intermittent fasting is better as compared to another, but it indicates that both of them work.

Tackling diabetes in men and mice

Recent research on effects of intermittent fasting has concentrated on periodic fasting. Valter Longo led a team of researchers in testing if it was possible to cure diabetes with intermittent fasting. The test was conducted on mutant mice. The mice didn’t have fat hormone leptin that regulates food intake. The mice kept overeating and became diabetic and obese in early adulthood.

It was found that after several months with periodic fasting, diabetes was cured in mice. The intermittent fasting involved four restricted days and seven unrestricted eating days. The results were fascinating. During periodic fasting, mice lost weight, and this helped. However, that isn’t the main reason why mice were cured. Periodic fasting helped the pancreas. Diabetes involves excess blood glucose in the body which occur as a result of insulin problem. Usually, insulin makes the cells to use glucose. But someone with diabetes has high glucose as the cells stopped taking in glucose. The reason is that the pancreas stopped making insulin, and also many cells lost sensitivity to insulin.

Researchers found that periodic fasting resulted in pancreas producing insulin again. During restricted eating, pancreas removed and recycled most of its cells and when the mice began eating again, the new cells produced insulin. Pancreas shrunk when restricted eating was observed and regrew when unrestricted eating days was observed. When this process was repeated several times, the pancreas regains its full functionality. Will the intermittent fasting show same effects when tried in humans? So far, the answer isn’t clear, but results from phase two trial are promising. Valter Longo still leads the phase two trial.

In the study, it involved 100 people who went through several 30-day cycles of intermittent fasting. There were five days of restricted eating and 25 days of unrestricted eating. When three cycles had been completed, those who had high blood sugar had significant improvements. Also, there were no harmful effects on any of the participants. Evidence has supported intermittent fasting but does it mean that all people should try it? Not necessarily.

Study results

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting is most beneficial for unhealthy and overweight people. It also seems that intermittent fasting has benefits for healthy and lean lab animals. It isn’t clear if this is the case for humans. Soon there will be a phase three clinical trial in humans. This trial will clarify most things. Everyone expects to see exciting results.

A new study led by USC shows that reprogramming cells can reverse diabetes. The reprogramming cells can be achieved by eating a diet that imitates the effects of fasting. The diet helps in growth of pancreatic cells that can reduce type 1 and type 2 diabetes symptoms in mice. The new cells assist in producing insulin.

Longo said that cycles of regular diet and fasting mimicking diet reprogrammed those cells that cannot produce insulin into insulin producing cells. The regeneration of cells in the pancreases rescued mice from late-stage type 1 and two diabetes. Insulin production was also reactivated in human’s cells from type 1 diabetes.  The reprogrammed cells helped in regeneration and new functional cells replaced the damaged cells. The latest studies on intermittent fasting were published on February 23. The studies showed promising health benefits of the periodic diet that mimic water-only fast effects. 

In diabetes, pancreases lose all cells that produce insulin which increases instability in sugar levels in the blood.  The study led to a reversal of diabetes in mice. The mice regained insulin production and reduced insulin resistance. Stable levels of glucose in the blood were recorded. This case was also seen in the late stage of diabetes.

Clinical study

Longo and other researchers examined pancreatic cell from donors and found that patients with type 1 diabetes had increased Ngn3 protein and insulin production after fasting. These results show that fasting-mimicking diet could reduce diabetes in humans.

The team of researchers led by Longo have much evidence showing the health benefits associated with fasting-mimicking diet. Another study that was published in Science Translation Medicine showed that this diet reduced the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other age-related illnesses. This was the case for study participants who had the fasting-mimicking diet for five days every month for three months.

Previous studies on this diet have suggested that it alleviated multiple sclerosis symptoms. This increased the chemotherapy efficacy for cancer treatments which decreased visceral fat. Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease. The findings warrant an FDA trial on the use of this diet to treat diabetes in humans and help them produces enough insulin and improve insulin function. Longo hopes that one day such diet will be approved by the FDA for use in few days every month. This will help in controlling blood sugar and insulin production.