Intermittent fasting may negate need for diabetes drugs, small study suggests

People with Type 2 diabetes who fast intermittently may no longer need medication, a small study suggests. Photo by Paul Hunt/Pixabay
People with Type 2 diabetes who fast intermittently may no longer need medication, a small study suggests. Photo by Paul Hunt/Pixabay

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- People with Type 2 diabetes who fast intermittently may no longer need medication, a small study suggests.

After an intermittent fasting diet intervention, most patients in the study achieved complete diabetes remission -- defined as having a stable HbA1c, or average blood sugar, level of less than 6.5% for at least three months -- after discontinuing all anti-diabetic medications.


This is according to findings published Wednesday in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"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," Dongbo Liu, the study's corresponding author and a professor at Hunan Agricultural University in Changsha, China, said in a news release.

He added: "Our research shows an intermittent fasting, Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy, can lead to diabetes remission in people with Type 2 diabetes, and these findings could have a major impact on the over 537 million adults worldwide who suffer from the disease."


The American Diabetes Association said the findings are encouraging.

"This study, though small, adds to the emerging literature on the potential benefits of intermittent fasting for the diabetes community. We look forward to larger studies to examine the benefits of this approach," Dr. Robert Gabbay, the organization's chief scientific and medical officer, told UPI in an email.

According to the research paper, the Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy diet "is a new proposed dietary approach based on [intermittent fasting] involving five fasting days followed by 10 days of reintroducing everyday food items."

The diet contains daily foods such as wheat, barley, rice, rye and oat, "and features reduced glycemic loads, calories, and carbohydrates, as well as increased unsaturated fatty acids," the scientists said.

Liu, describing diabetes medications as costly and a barrier for many patients trying to manage their illness, said, "Our study saw medication costs decrease by 77% in people with diabetes after intermittent fasting."

The researchers said that, although intermittent fasting diets -- eating within a specific window of time to help the body burn fat -- have become popular, no scientific studies have investigated their benefit in diabetes remission.

Their study involved participants between 38 and 72 years old who had Type 2 diabetes from one year to 11 years and used anti-diabetic drugs and/or insulin injections. Two-thirds of them were men. The participants' body mass index , or BMI, ranged from 19.1 to 30.4.


Participants were randomly assigned to the Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy group, involving intermittent fasting, or to a control group

After a three-month intermittent fasting diet intervention among 36 people with diabetes, almost 90% of participants, including people who took blood sugar-lowering agents and insulin, reduced their diabetes medication use.

Three months after the intervention ended, 47.2% of participants had achieved diabetes remission in the Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy/intermittent fasting group, the research paper said. That compared with 2.8% in the control group.

At the 12-month follow up, 44.4% of the participants were found to have achieved sustained diabetes remission.

The researchers said their findings challenge the conventional view that diabetes remission can only be achieved in people who have had Type 2 diabetes no longer than six years. Sixty-five percent of the study's participants who achieved such remission had Type 2 diabetes for six years to 11 years.

"This study demonstrated the clinical efficacy of [intermittent fasting] in achieving diabetes remission for at least one year," the paper concludes.

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