TUESDAY, July 26, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Intermittent fasting may help people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar levels, a new study found.
People with diabetes who restricted their eating to within a daily 10-hour window ended up with blood sugar levels in the normal range for about three hours longer than when they ate when they felt like it, the researchers reported.
These patients also experienced consistently lower 24-hour blood sugar levels and lower morning fasting glucose when they participated in a time-restricted eating pattern, the researchers found.
“Time-restricted feeding may be an effective approach to improve metabolic health in adults with type 2 diabetes, but further study is needed to confirm this finding,” said lead researcher Charlotte Andriessen, a doctoral student in the department of nutrition. and movement sciences at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
This study answers a question on the minds of many people trying to manage their diabetes, said Dr. Reshmi Srinath, director of the Weight and Metabolism Management Program at Mount Sinai in New York City.
“There is a lot of interest in intermittent fasting, both in our patients with diabetes and obesity, looking to help their metabolic health and help them lose weight,” Srinath said. “So this is actually a really key study that is relevant to us in real time.”
For this study, 14 adults with type 2 diabetes were asked to limit their food intake to a 10-hour window each day, with the window closing no later than 6 p.m. They were fitted with continuous glucose monitoring devices that They measured their blood sugar levels every 15 minutes.
People were told to eat as they normally would during their food intake window, with no special dietary restrictions. Outside of these hours, they were allowed to drink water, simple tea, black coffee and soft drinks without calories.
The participants spent three weeks on this intermittent fasting diet and then another three weeks eating as they normally would whenever they wanted.
During time-restricted eating, the participants ended up with normal blood sugar levels an average of 15 hours a day, compared to an average of 12 hours a day when they ate whenever they wanted.
Importantly, the 10-hour eating window was safe for the participants, who experienced no significant increase in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or other serious side effects when they fasted, the results showed.
“It really tells us that intermittent fasting is potentially safe,” Srinath said. “That’s something that always comes to mind. When patients come to me, they ask me: is it safe for me? Is there an increased risk of hypoglycemia? And from this study, they used glucose monitoring and found that sugars improved overall. More patients achieved normal blood sugar levels and that is a great result.”
Intermittent fasting also appeared to be an easy eating pattern to adopt. In fact, the participants ended up naturally falling into a 9-hour food intake window, one hour short of what they were allowed, the study reports.
“For the most part, the participants reported that they found the time-restricted feeding regimen feasible,” Andriessen said. “The most critical moments were during the weekend when they were not allowed to eat or drink anything (other than water) at parties or other social gatherings.”
There are strong biological reasons to think that intermittent fasting would help better control diabetes, Srinath said.
“When you fast, your body first breaks down glycogen stores, which is basically sugar stored in the body,” Srinath said. “And then when those glycogen stores are depleted, the body is forced to break down fats. The idea is that when you fast for long periods of time, there is a greater efficiency in the way your body uses stored energy.
The findings were published July 25 in the journal diabetology.
Both the safety and success of this intermittent fasting plan could be explained by the fact that it wasn’t as restrictive as it usually is, said Dr. Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
The 10-hour window “was actually quite generous for the study because sometimes with time-restricted eating, they end up having you eat only 6 to 8 hours,” Kellis said. “This was definitely much more feasible.”
The fact that participants can eat whatever they want also makes the diet easier to follow.
“Eating in a shorter period of time is essentially a form of calorie restriction, because you can’t eat much in 10 hours. But we also know that eating the wrong foods doesn’t help, right? Srinath said. “Eating excess carbohydrates, eating excess processed or fatty foods, can lead to detriments both in terms of metabolic outcomes and weight gain and the like,” he continued.
“That may actually be a limitation here, as they didn’t provide dietary guidance,” Srinath said. “If they had, maybe they would have been of greater importance in terms of their results.”
The results of the study were not perfect. The researchers expected to see the participants’ insulin resistance improve during the three-week fasting period, but that didn’t work.
However, Kellis noted that the study was very short and involved only a handful of people — spending more time on intermittent fasting could cause even more improvements in patients’ metabolism. Also, some of the people were taking diabetes medications that might have hindered the effects of the fast.
“It’s hard to tell that, the effectiveness of time-restricted feeding in terms of insulin sensitivity, from this study,” Kellis said.
Johns Hopkins has more on intermittent fasting.
SOURCES: Charlotte Andriessen, PhD student, department of nutrition and movement sciences, Maastricht University, the Netherlands; Reshmi Srinath, MD, Director, Metabolism and Weight Management Program, Mount Sinai, New York City; Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, MD, endocrinologist, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; diabetologyJuly 25, 2022