Long associated with certain religious practices, fasting has become a popular diet trend in recent years. While experts still debate its benefits and risks, a study published April 6 in the journal Nature Medicine has found that a specific type of fasting could help reduce the odds of developing type-2 diabetes.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Australia recruited more than 200 people for the 18-month study, dividing them into two groups. The first group adopted a time-restricted, intermittent fasting diet that focused on eating early in the day. The other group followed a standard reduced-calorie diet.
After 6 months, the researchers found that while people from both groups experienced similar amounts of weight loss, participants who followed the intermittent fasting diet showed a reduction in risk factors for type-2 diabetes.
“People who fasted for three days during the week, only eating between 8 am and 12 pm on those days, showed a greater tolerance to glucose after 6 months than those on a daily, low-calorie diet,” said lead author Professor Leonie Heilbronn of the University of Adelaide. “Participants who followed the intermittent fasting diet were more sensitive to insulin and also experienced a greater reduction in blood lipids than those on the low-calorie diet.”
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells don’t respond effectively to insulin and it loses its ability to produce the hormone, which is responsible for controlling glucose in the blood. It’s estimated that nearly 60 percent of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented with dietary and lifestyle changes, and this new study adds evidence to that assertion. “Following a time-restricted, intermittent fasting diet could help lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes,” said Heilbronn.
The study also provides more evidence that when you eat can be as important as what you eat. “The results of this study add to the growing body of evidence to indicate that meal timing and fasting advice extends the health benefits of a restricted calorie diet, independently from weight loss, and this may be influential in clinical practice,” said researcher Xiao Tong Teong, a PhD student at the University of Adelaide.
The authors noted that further research is needed to investigate whether a slightly longer eating window could provide the same benefits, which could make the intermittent fasting diet more sustainable in the long run.