Fasting has long been considered beneficial for health, but can it help you control your blood glucose? Here are some basic facts and the result of one rigorous clinical experiment.
Dietary restrictions (DR) have been used for thousands of years to clean the body internally and promote good health. They play a central role in many cultures and religions (such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism).
Fasting, the most extreme form of DR, entails abstinence from all food but not water. It kills damaged cells, puts healthy cells into a protected mode and generates new young cells. Fasting has long been associated with a wide array of health benefits, including improved control over blood glucose, weight loss, heart health, brain function and the prevention of cancer.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. In humans it has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood glucose, insulin, and blood pressure levels.
Prolonged fasting (PF) is fasting that lasts for two or more days. When the bouts of fasting are separated by at least a week of a normal diet (a 2:7 strategy), PF causes a decrease in levels of blood glucose and insulin. In addition, PF is accompanied by autophagy (the cellular self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules).
A PF 2:7 diet strategy has a rising reputation among medical scientists and dieticians as a highly effective strategy to protect normal cells and organs from a variety of toxins and serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and liver problems, while increasing the death rate of many types of cancer cells.
The problem is that most people find prolonged water-only fasting for two days (48 hours straight) very difficult. In addition, its extreme nature could cause adverse health consequences, especially in the old and frail and in persons with pre-existing medical conditions. A less severe diet with similar effects to a full-bodied PF is needed.
A fasting mimicking diet (FMD) is a diet that mimics the effects of fasting. Experiments undertaken a few years ago found that cycles of an FMD lasting four days followed by a normal diet could deliver benefits similar to those of a PF 2:7 diet.
One such study was published in published in Cell Metabolism in July 2015. The research was divided into several parts.
A Clinic trial on fasting
In the study on animals, mice were fed a restricted diet for four days twice a month and allowed to eat as much as they wanted in between.
After each FMD cycle, the mice had lower blood glucose and insulin levels, and had reductions in certain inflammation factors such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is associated with aging and cancer, compared to mice on an unrestricted diet.
At 28 months, the mice on the FMD also had lost weight and had less belly fat (which is associated with diabetes) compared to the other mice. In addition, fasting mice had longer life spans.
In the human trial, 19 subjects went on a special FMD for five days each month for three months. Another 19 participants acted as controls who ate their usual diet.
The test subjects followed a very specific diet designed to reduce the risks of fasting yet provide essential nutrients and minimize the psychological difficulties that are encountered during fasting. The special diet included vegetable-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chamomile tea and a dietary supplement … designed to deliver 44% fat, 47% carbohydrates, and 9% protein.
On the first day of the five-day diet they were limited to 1,090 calories and then, on the last four days, to only 725 calories. Those who were on the FMD lowered their fasting blood glucose levels by an average of 11.3% … more than a type 2 diabetic would normally experience using a typical routine medicine for diabetes.
The study also found that IGF-1 was reduced by 24% (a plus for cancer prevention) and CRP levels, a marker for inflammation, was also lowered. In addition, those on the FMD lost 3% of their weight and reduced their belly fat, along with a range of other health benefits.
The overall results suggest that partial fasting can help control diabetes.
However, this is only one study using only 19 test subjects, and obviously further research is needed to confirm the results … but it gives cause to hope that intermittent fasting can reverse type 2 diabetes. It is something I intend to try …