Intermittent Fasting And Diabetes: Benefits And Risks

Intermittent Fasting And Diabetes: Benefits And Risks

Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes | Types of Intermittent Fasting | Benefits | How to Follow Intermittent Fasting | Risks

To understand the link between intermittent fasting and diabetes we may have to consider various factors. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is a common metabolic disorder and is significantly linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Health professionals believe that weight loss and exercise regime which improves metabolism can benefit type 2 diabetes mellitus. Dietary interventions are considered essential in treating and preventing diabetes and its complications. 

If you are tired of trying complex diet regimes or exercise recommendations to control your blood glucose, here is a simple and straightforward diet intervention — Intermittent Fasting. It addresses the root cause of your diabetes, which is insulin sensitivity. 

Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of attention lately for its potential therapeutic role. It helps in the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. It is a simple diet intervention that limits your food intake to a 4 to 8 hour period daily. Experts have recommended it as a safe and tolerable eating pattern for diabetic patients. However, every individual is different, and consulting your doctor before trying intermittent fasting is essential. 

If you plan to try intermittent fasting and have diabetes, read on to understand the benefits of this diet and the risks you need to be aware of. 

Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes – How it Helps

In type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is the most prominent feature. Diet interventions leading to calorie restrictions are known to improve insulin resistance. When you fast for a prolonged period, your insulin level falls, and insulin sensitivity rises. This results in improved fasting and postprandial glucose levels. Also, as insulin stimulates adipose tissue growth, hence low levels of insulin prevent any weight gain.

Intermittent fasting is also believed to improve your metabolic and inflammatory pathways. These benefits include promoting cellular autophagy, activation of the stress response, and decreased inflammation.

According to some experts, metabolic disorders present a bigger challenge for any treatment in the medical field. Intermittent fasting for a few days in a week or prolonged overnight fasting brings significant improvement in your metabolic parameters. It also reduces your body fat leading to weight loss. In fact, a study has revealed that eating two large meals a day is more beneficial in type 2 diabetes than eating six small meals. 

intermittent fasting diabetes

Types of Intermittent Fasting in Diabetes

There are various types of intermittent fasting; you can follow any based on your experience with fasting;

  • 16/8 intermittent fasting – In this type, you fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour eating window. Generally, people eat early dinner and fast till early noon the next day.
  • Alternate day fasting – In this, you eat a normal diet one day,  the next day fasting for 24 hours. You should drink a lot of water and beverages that contain no calories during your fast. 
  • 24 fast – In this, you fast for one day and follow a normal diet for the rest of the week. 
  • Early time-restricted feeding – You can restrict mealtimes to the morning and early afternoon, followed by fasting for the rest of the day. 

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting in Diabetes

Fasting can help fight diabetes in many ways. It helps achieve your weight loss goals and improves overall health too. Many research studies conducted on intermittent fasting and diabetes are based on animal studies. Though the results are promising, we still need to explore more. Hence, it is advised to discuss with your healthcare provider if you are planning to start intermittent fasting. 

1. Improved Insulin Sensitivity and Blood Glucose Regulation

As we all know, insulin resistance is the root cause of diabetes, and fasting is the most effective way of reducing it. Intermittent fasting improves your insulin sensitivity by lowering calorie intake and regulating metabolism. Prolonged fasting hours lead to low insulin levels in your body, which results in enhanced insulin sensitivity. 

A BMJ article published in 2018 has revealed that intermittent fasting can successfully treat insulin resistance. Another promising revelation was, participants of this study experienced a reduction in hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) levels and were able to discontinue their insulin. The study also mentioned that there was no incidence of hypoglycemia. Hence, we can say intermittent fasting is safe in type 2 diabetes. 

2. Weight loss

Generally, during diabetes, diet interventions, lifestyle modifications, and exercise are recommended to achieve weight loss. During fasting, when there is no intake of food, your body starts burning sugar and fat. It is a perfect solution for type 2 diabetes as it results in weight loss and reduced blood glucose.

Intermittent fasting has the potential to improve your blood glucose levels as well as promote weight loss

3. Metabolic Regulation

Every single fasting interval followed by you can reduce basal concentrations of metabolic biomarkers such as insulin and glucose. According to studies, fasting causes profound cardiovascular and metabolic changes, resulting in reduced plasma insulin and glucose levels. 

Intermittent fasting and restricting nighttime food intake improves your metabolic profiles and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and its complications.

4. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Other Complications

A fasting diet is proven to be associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease in obese individuals. With improved metabolic regulation, intermittent fasting regulates your body’s stress responses. This stress adaptation of various organs decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other complications of type 2 diabetes. 

5. May Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

Though diabetes is a chronic condition and needs lifelong care, intensive weight management can help achieve remission of type 2 diabetes. Caloric restriction and weight loss are the essential factors that may help to reverse type 2 diabetes. 

Can intermittent fasting cure diabetes? Intermittent fasting increases your insulin sensitivity. It also improves body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and HbA1C levels. Intermittent fasting can be a practical diet strategy to reverse diabetes

16/8 intermittent fasting diabetes

How to Follow Intermittent Fasting During Diabetes

If you have diabetes and are willing to try intermittent fasting, consulting your healthcare provider is a must. You may have to pay attention to these 3 critical factors;

  • Your medication adjustment
  • Routine glucose monitoring 
  • Optimal fluid intake

Anti-diabetic Medication Adjustment

Anti-diabetes medications such as sulfonylureas, meglitinides, and insulin, are associated with the risk of hypoglycemia. The doses of these medications need to be adjusted on days of your intermittent fasting. The risk of hypoglycemia is most commonly seen during diabetes.

It may sound challenging but experiencing hypoglycemia is a short-term risk. When practiced for a few months, intermittent fasting can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes and its complications. 

Routine Glucose Monitoring

If you are not taking medications like insulin and sulfonylureas, the risk of hypoglycemia is low. However, routine glucose monitoring can help you self-manage your condition and avoid any complications. While starting your journey with intermittent fasting, frequent monitoring of your glucose levels is recommended. 

Optimal Fluid Intake

During diabetes, you need enough water in your body to regulate your blood glucose. While practicing intermittent fasting, you are only taking non-caloric beverages. Unknowingly this may reduce your water intake and result in dehydration and hypotension. Ensure you consume enough water to stay hydrated. 

Risks Associated with Intermittent fasting In Type 2 Diabetes

There is not enough evidence to specify the duration, frequency, and flexibility of fasting required to benefit type 2 diabetes. Every individual is different, and you will have to try various duration and severity to see what works best for you. Here are some risks of intermittent fasting you may experience if you have diabetes. 

Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia

The most prominent risk of intermittent fasting during diabetes is the development of hypoglycemia. It is especially seen if you are on antidiabetic medications like insulin and sulfonylurea. Other antidiabetic medicines rarely result in hypoglycemia. As mentioned earlier, this is a short-term risk, and eventually, your body adapts, and your insulin sensitivity increases. 

Hyperglycemia occurs when you eat excess food after your period of fasting. Binge eating and a high-carb diet may lead to a sudden rise in blood sugar. Being mindful while eating, making healthy food choices, and following a low-carb diet can help you avoid this complication. 

Malnutrition

Long-term intermittent fasting may result in nutritional deficiency in your body. If you are not consuming the required amount of proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients, you may experience symptoms of malnutrition. You may have to consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements to meet your daily needs. 

Headache and Fatigue 

Insufficient intake of nutrients and dehydration can result in uncomfortable symptoms like tiredness, nausea, irritability, and headache. Having medical conditions like diabetes can also lead to complications like unstable angina, cardiac problems, kidney problems, etc. Consult your doctor if you experience extreme tiredness, confusion, or sweating. 

Another essential thing to consider is, intermittent fasting, when combined with healthy eating, can benefit type 2 diabetes. Overeating during your eating window and making wrong food choices can complicate your health condition. Before switching to intermittent fasting during diabetes, consult your health provider to get a more individualized plan. 

Final Words

A wise approach with intermittent fasting during diabetes helps you reduce your insulin needs and also helps you lose weight. As mentioned in this article, the research findings of intermittent fasting during diabetes are exciting and can greatly improve your overall health. With proper guidance from your doctor and self-monitoring of your blood glucose, intermittent fasting can be safely practiced while having health conditions like diabetes.  

Intermittent fasting is a safe, tolerable dietary intervention that improves key factors like body weight, fasting glucose, and postprandial variability. 

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