Calorie-Restricted Intermittent Fasting Effective for Type 2 Diabetes Remission

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Calorie-Restricted Intermittent Fasting Effective for Type 2 Diabetes Remission

Following a diet that restricted both calories and when participants ate led to remission of type 2 diabetes — normal blood glucose levels without taking glucose-lowering medications — in nearly half of participants, in a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Time-restricted eating has gained greater attention in recent years, and several studies have highlighted both the potential benefits and the potential risks of this practice. One common version of time-restricted eating is intermittent fasting, meaning that you don’t eat during certain periods of the day — every day or on certain days of the week. But there are other versions of time-restricted eating, such as an intermittent low-calorie diet — which has been shown to help improve blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting may also help improve blood glucose control and has been shown to be effective for weight loss in women following a pregnancy with gestational diabetes. But some studies have shown no weight loss benefit from time-restricted eating.

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For the latest study, researchers designed a diet that involved both intermittent fasting and overall calorie restriction. The participants were 72 people with type 2 diabetes between the ages of 38 and 72, with a diabetes duration ranging from one to 11 years. All participants took at least one glucose-lowering drug (potentially including insulin) at the beginning of the study. Participants were randomly assigned either to the diet intervention, or to a control group that received standard medical care, for three months. After another three months, the researchers assessed whether participants experienced diabetes remission — defined as a stable A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) below 6.5% for at least three months after stopping all glucose-lowering drugs.

Diabetes remission linked to calorie-restricted intermittent fasting

After the three months of the main study period and another three months of follow-up, 17 out of 36 participants in the diet intervention group (47.2%) experienced diabetes remission, compared with just one out of 36 participants in the control group (2.8%). This means that participants in the diet intervention group were more than 31 times as likely to experience diabetes remission than those in the control group. Participants in the diet intervention group also lost an average of 5.93 kilograms (13.07 pounds) of body weight, compared with 0.27 kilograms (0.60 pounds) in the control group. After another nine months — 12 months after the initial study period — 16 out of 36 participants in the diet intervention group (44.4%) maintained diabetes remission, with an average A1C level of 6.33%.

Another benefit seen in the diet intervention group was that the average cost of all medications participants took dropped, since so many participants no longer needed glucose-lowering drugs. But the researchers didn’t attempt to put a price on the diet intervention itself, so it’s impossible to known if the intervention had an overall cost-saving effect.

The researchers concluded that a diet intervention involving calorie restriction and intermittent fasting was effective at promoting remission of type 2 diabetes for at least 12 months. Since this study involved a very small group of participants, much larger studies are needed to find out if this approach is broadly effective — and whether it involves any other long-term health benefits or risks.

Want to learn more about diabetes remission? Read “Type 2 Diabetes Remission — Can It Be Done?”

Want to learn more about intermittent fasting? Read “Can Diabetics Do Intermittent Fasting?”

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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