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)