July 23 (UPI) -- Type 2 diabetes patients are just as likely to control their blood glucose levels and lose weight by following a rigid diet twice a week as they are on a calorie-restricted one every day.
Researchers at the University of South Australia studied the effects of the so-called 5:2 diet for controlling the disease. The study, which researchers say is the first long-term clinical trial comparing the diets of people with type 2 diabetes, was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Conventional weight-loss diets with daily energy restrictions are difficult for people to adhere to so we must look for alternative solutions," Dr. Peter Clifton, a professor of nutrition at the school, said in a press release.
Lead author Sharayah Carter, a doctoral student, said intermittent fasting could be a solution for people with diabetes.
The 5:2 diet "is based on flexible periods of intermittent fasting. With it, you eat for five days a week and fast (around 12-24 hours) for two non-consecutive days," according to the authors of the diet on their website.
The researchers conducted a yearlong clinical trial of 137 people 18 and older with type 2 diabetes, half of whom followed a 5:2 diet while the rest maintained daily caloric intakes of 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day from April 2015 to September 2017.
The researchers found consuming 500 to 600 calories two non-consecutive days and a normal diet for the other days resulted in weight loss and improved hemoglobin A1c.
"Intermittent energy restriction is an effective alternative diet strategy for the reduction of HbA1c level comparable to continuous energy restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes, and it may be superior to continuous energy restriction for weight reduction," the researchers wrote.
The researchers cautioned the 5:2 diet needs precautions for some people. Those using insulin and other oral medications likely to cause hypoglycemic blood glucose levels need to be monitored and have medication doses changed accordingly.