Will Fasting Become a New Weapon in the Fight Against Diabetes?

Study: fasting can help fight diabetes and heart disease
A group of researchers in Utah, studying people who fast from time to time for religious reasons, found in past studies that those who fast tend to have low rates of both heart disease and diabetes. These researchers wanted to know if fasting could stop or reverse heart disease and diabetes. While their most recent study isn’t conclusive, and they say it’s still too soon to recommend fasting for medical purposes based on their findings, their initial results indicate fasting can be an important intervention when it comes to fighting diabetes. These results come after another study showed fasting twice a year may also reboot your immune system.

Benjamin Horne, the lead author of the study, notes, “Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention…During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly among [those being studied]. But over a six-week period, cholesterol levels decreased by about 12 percent in addition to weight loss.”

The study found the body began scavenging for other sources of energy to help sustain itself approximately 10 to 12 hours into the fast. In doing so, the body ends up taking LDL (bad) cholesterol out of fat cells. How exactly the LDL is used isn’t completely understood, but the body appears to use it at a later date as an energy source. So while cholesterol levels actually rose in the study participants during the times they were fasting, their total cholesterol levels registered lower over time. Since fat cells can be a major factor in insulin resistance, the fasting has the potential to be a weapon against the disease. Horne notes this is actually a natural process which can help those with pre-diabetes fight the risks which lead to full blown diabetes.

Another key finding was that cholesterol begins to be pulled from fat cells at 10 – 12 hours into the fast, but the metabolic benefits of fasting don’t begin until 12 hours into the fast. They then peak at approximately 24 hours into fasting. The results show participants received the most metabolic benefit in the last 12 hours of a 24 hour fast.

While the results are encouraging, there’s still more research which needs to be done before concluding fasting should be used as a medical assigned way of fighting diabetes. This is especially true with longer fasts of two to three days, which many books recommend, but for which there hasn’t been a whole lot of research on the risks involved. The study is a first step showing promise, but more research will be needed before fasting for diabetes benefits should be considered a medical treatment.

If these results are confirmed, it could be a wonderful way for those with diabetes to fight the disease for little cost. In fact, they could save money (by skipping meals) while getting healthier, which could reduce costs even more. Since there is no cost involved with this treatment it could be used by anyone, if they have the willpower, to fight the disease, no matter how poor their financial situation.

(Photo courtesy of Gisela Francisco)

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4 Responses to Will Fasting Become a New Weapon in the Fight Against Diabetes?

  1. Hamchan says:

    Fasting would be dangerous for anyone who is already diabetic. If your glucose levels drop too low you can go into a coma and die. It may work as prevention, but I cannot imagine it being recommended for diabetes management.

  2. JOSEPH HECHT says:

    As a diabetic on insulin, this sounds like great news. However, I suspect that skipping the meals while on insulin might cause me to go into diabetic shock. Doesn’t sound like it should be a recommended course of action!

  3. John Colby says:

    I have been doing the Intermittent Fasting for about 3 months ALONG WITH a low carb diet. What happens is that because of the fact that the body begins to use fat for energy, the blood glucose never drops as it does if I were doing a high carb diet. I have been testing about 5 times a day and have never had suger even down into the 70s. BTW My sugars have stabilized around 100 average and I have completely stopped taking my metformin.

    Fasting is an awesome tool, but it is just a tool.

  4. Scott says:

    can you explain what you mean by intermittent fasting? How long? What’s permitted to eat/drink? How often a month? Just trying to get a handle on what the practical aspects of intermittent fasting are.


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