Most people take up intermittent fasting (IF) with the worthy goal of shedding a few pounds or boosting health. There’s promising evidence IF can benefit both, thanks to research suggesting its potential to melt away excess body fat (1), reset digestion, boost brain power (2), reduce inflammation (3), and protect us from a variety of diseases (4).
Intermittent fasting in five-day blocks might also reverse type 2 diabetes in as little as three months, suggests new research from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (5).
The research, which was conducted by a team of researchers in China, suggests 90-percent of people with diabetes who took up a 5:10 day intermittent fasting protocol (which involved restricting calories for five days, and then eating whatever you want for 10) reduced their diabetes medication, including blood sugar-lowering agents and insulin.
What Did the Research Show?
The researchers divided 72 participants with diabetes into two groups. One group ate normally, while the other tried a three-month intermittent fasting intervention. The strict regime involved five days of eating an average of 840 calories a day, followed by 10 days of eating normally.
The food offered at each meal during the fasting period wasn’t too exciting but made up for its lack of flavor in convenience. All participants had to do was add boiling water to be rewarded with “nutritional rice,” a meal-replacement biscuit containing black beans, maize and oats, or fruit and vegetable gruel. Yum.
After three months on the diet, almost 90-percent of participants reduced their meds, and almost half (44-percent) of the 36 participants experienced diabetes remission, discontinued their diabetes medication, and maintained an HbA1c (average blood sugar) level of less than 6.5-percent for at least one year.
The study was met with criticism since it involved a relatively small sample size. Still, the results make yet another case that the benefits of IF reach well beyond weight loss. “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,” said senior researcher Dongbo Liu, Ph.D.
Perhaps the bigger win is the reduction of expensive medication costs for those who followed the IF protocol. “Our study saw medication costs decrease by 77-percent in people with diabetes after intermittent fasting,” said Liu.
Try Intermittent Fasting
There are loads of different intermittent fasting protocols, many of them not nearly as restrictive as the 5:10 day method above which involves drastically reducing calories for five days at a time. IF diets generally fall into two camps: time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting.
Time-restricted eating narrows eating to a set block of time per day. For example, the popular 18:6 diet involves an 18-hour fast, followed by a six-hour window where you can eat whatever you want. Not eating for 18 hours may sound difficult, but keep in mind you’re asleep for approximately eight of those hours.
Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is similar to the protocol followed in the study. Perhaps, the most popular is the 5:2 diet, which involves restricting your calorie intake for two days, and then eating whatever you want for five days.
However you slice it, IF can make weight loss a heck of a lot easier by focusing on when to eat rather than what to eat. Just make sure to ease into it. Start with a smaller fasting window, and slowly extend it over time to work up to a full IF protocol and start seeing results.