Intermittent fasting better than pharmaceutical drugs at managing diabetes
07/01/2024 // Ethan Huff // Views

If you suffer from type 2 diabetes and hate taking antidiabetic pharmaceutical drugs, how about trying intermittent fasting instead?

New research published in the journal Diabetes and Endocrinology shows that blood sugar can more easily be managed through timing when you eat rather than popping diabetes medications.

Participants who adhered to a 5:2 intermittent fasting diet, meaning they eat normally for five days while reducing calories for the remaining two days, improved their blood sugar levels and lost weight more easily than diabetes sufferers who stick with pharmaceuticals while eating whatever and whenever they want.

The so-called EARLY (Exploration of Treatment of Newly Diagnosed Overweight/Obese Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus) study is a randomized clinical trial that took place across nine locations in China. Its purpose was to assess the effects of intermittent fasting for glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.

A total of 405 people participated in the research. They were divided into three groups: one that adhered to the 5:2 fasting diet with meal replacements, and the other two that took either metformin or empagliflozin, two popular drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes.

Those in the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet group fasted for two consecutive days each week. On those two consecutive days, they ate a low-calorie meal replacement product and limited their caloric intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. On the other five days, they ate their usual breakfast and lunch but replaced dinner with a meal replacement product.

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All throughout the study period, every participant from each group was given comprehensive dietary and exercise guidance coupled with general diabetes education from nutritionists and research physicians.

Over the 16 weeks that the trial took place, the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet group saw a significant drop in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a measure of blood sugar control. They saw an average reduction of 1.9 percent compared to 1.6 percent in the metformin group and 1.5 percent in the empagliflozin group.

As for weight loss, participants in the 5:2 group lost an average of 21 pounds while the metformin and empagliflozin groups saw an average reduction of 12 pounds and 13 pounds, respectively.

"The 5:2 MR approach may serve as an effective initial lifestyle intervention instead of antidiabetic drugs for patients with type 2 diabetes," the paper concludes.

(Related: Have you heard of the 16:8 diet, one of the latest trends in intermittent fasting that helps banish cravings?)

Fasting burns fat for energy

Dr. Jason Fung, a leading expert in intermittent fasting and author of "The Diabetes Code," believes that limiting what and when you eat makes all the difference in blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity, and various diabetes-related complications.

"Fasting allows your body to lower insulin levels and burn stored fat for energy, improving insulin sensitivity," wrote Sheramy Tsai in a piece for The Epoch Times. "This means your cells are better able to use glucose, reducing overall blood sugar levels."

Last year, a study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that found 47 percent of diabetes patients who adhered to an intermittent fasting protocol go into remission.

"It's nothing more or less than give your body a break and let it burn off all that energy that you've stored away because that's the natural thing to do if you've stored too much," Dr. Fung said in a talk at the "Food for Thought 2023: Rising to the challenge of obesity and diabetes" conference, which you can watch below:

"I did it at 23 years old," one commenter wrote about the successes he saw with intermittent fasting.

"Intermittent fasting includes steak and eggs! Went from 7.1 A1C to 5.3, and have maintained that for over three years now with zero meds – if old lazy me can do it, anybody can do it."

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