A new study suggests that planned, intermittent fasting may help to reverse type 2 diabetes, according to a report from ScienceDaily.com. Three patients of the doctors, who published their findings in the journal BMJ Case Reports, used fasting to eliminate their need for insulin treatments.
The three male patients, all between the ages of 40 and 67, tried intermittent fasting under doctor supervision, alongside drugs and daily insulin treatments. All three suffered from high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as type 2 diabetes. Two fasted every other day, for full 24-hour periods, and the third patient fasted three days each week. While fasting, the patients consumed low-calorie beverages like coffee, tea, water, or broth, eating a single low-calorie meal each night.
The patients were first given nutritional training focused on how diabetes affects the body, insulin resistance, and how to manage the disease through dietary practices such as planned fasting.
They carried out the fasting schedule for ten months, after which their blood glucose, weight, and waist circumference were measured. All three lost between 10 and 18 percent of their weight, and were able to stop taking diabetes drugs. For one patient, insulin injections were no longer needed after just five days of fasting, and the other two were able to stop within a month. Two stopped all diabetes medications, while the third successfully stopped three out of four.
The authors of the report suggest these changes could help cut down on further complications for the patients in the future.
Crucially, all three reported minimal difficulty sticking with the diet plan.
“The use of a therapeutic fasting regimen for treatment of [type 2 diabetes] is virtually unheard of. This present case series showed that 24-hour fasting regimens can significantly reverse or eliminate the need for diabetic medication,” the authors said in their report.
While an observational study of such small scale does not allow for definitive conclusions to be drawn, it does suggest a new avenue of treatment to investigate, for an increasingly common ailment.
One in 10 people in the US and Canada suffer from type 2 diabetes, with costs estimated at $245 billion annually for the US alone.
Currently, diabetes can only be managed through medications, lifestyle changes, and bariatric surgery (which carries risks). None of these methods can cure or stop the disease entirely.