Australian study confirms the therapeutic benefits of intermittent fasting for diabetic patients

Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular styles of fasting for weight loss. This type of fasting can also benefit people with diabetes. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Network, intermittent fasting can help lower Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.

HbA1c is the average blood sugar levels for the last two to three months. A high HbA1c means there is too much sugar in the blood, which indicates a greater risk of developing diabetes complications.

For the study, researchers from the University of South Australia recruited 137 adults with Type 2 diabetes, who were then randomly divided into two groups. One group followed an intermittent calorie restriction diet that consisted of 500 to 600 kilocalorie (kcal) per day for two non-consecutive days a week and increased intake for five days. The other group followed a continuous calorie restriction diet that consisted of 1,200 to 1,500 kcal every day for a year. The researchers initially analyzed HbA1c, then weight loss.

Based on the results, the intermittent fasting method produced the same outcomes as continuous calorie restriction in reducing HbA1c. In addition, there were similar weight reductions between groups. However, within the first two weeks, no changes in blood sugar levels occurred, which affected 35 percent of the participants using sulphonylurea or insulin.

The findings of the study suggested that intermittent fasting is safe and effective for reducing HbA1c, so it may be practiced as an effective alternative to daily calorie restriction. The researchers noted that careful medication management is also needed to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low, resulting in hypoglycemia.

The other benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting not only benefits people with diabetes and those trying to maintain a healthy weight. Researchers from the University of Florida have suggested that it may also slow down aging and disease.

They conducted a review, which was published in the journal Obesity, to determine how this type of fasting affects metabolism and whether it could offer other health benefits, in addition to weight management. They reviewed studies on the mechanisms and benefits of fasting.

The body generates energy from glucose, but when an individual fasts for a longer period of time, that energy source becomes unavailable. Because the body needs to find a different energy source, the body starts to convert certain types of body fat into fatty acids that are easily absorbed by the blood. In turn, these fatty acids produce molecules called ketones, which the body utilizes as its new source of energy. This “metabolic switch” can occur after a specific period of time fasting.

In the review, they focused on the two most common types of intermittent fasting diets. The first one is based on eating anything for a certain time only; while the other is alternating days of fasting like eating normally five days a week and cutting calories on two fasting days.

After analyzing the results of 10 clinical trials on alternate-day fasting and three studies on restricted timing type of intermittent fasting, the researchers confirmed that this type of diet is effective in weight loss. Unlike other diet strategies, wherein significant amounts of fat and lean tissue are lost, only body fat is lost in intermittent fasting. Lean tissue is important as it enables the body to keep functioning properly.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that intermittent fasting may be healthier than other diet techniques because, in this diet, ketones put less stress on cells than the byproducts of other dietary styles. In turn, this could help prolong life, enhance metabolic processes, preserve cognition, boost physical performance, reduce inflammation, and prevent cardiovascular problems. (Related: Intermittent fasting protects and improves brain health, but you won’t hear that from Big Pharma or the food industry.)

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