Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes

A piece of bread on a plate

Intermittent fasting is currently one of the most popular fad diets. Many people believe that there are multiple health benefits of intermittent fasting and diabetes can be controlled and even reversed by adopting intermittent fasting as a lifestyle. However, experts have varying opinions in this regard. Can you really reverse diabetes through intermittent fasting? Let’s find out!

What is the Relation between Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes?

Research has proved the various benefits of intermittent fasting on overall health. Moreover, there is tons of anecdotal evidence suggesting that intermittent fasting and diabetes may be related in many ways. Now the only question remaining is how intermittent fasting affects the body exactly to control or reverse diabetes.

However, before we take a look at the relation between intermittent fasting and diabetes, first, it is important to learn more about diabetes and intermittent fasting.      

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to produce and manage insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the sugar level in the body. Higher than normal sugar levels in the body can lead to serious damage to various body systems. There are three main types of diabetes.

  • Diabetes Type 1 
  • Diabetes Type 2  
  • Gestational diabetes

According to research, in 2019, approximately 463 million adults were living with diabetes and over 760 billion dollars were spent on health expenditures related to diabetes in the US alone! The statistics are truly alarming, showing that diabetes is a serious health concern all around the world. This is why many people try fad diets like intermittent fasting to control or treat diabetes.  

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is currently one of the most popular fitness and diet trends. It can be described as an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and fasting. Instead of focusing on what you eat, intermittent fasting mainly emphasizes on when you should eat.

Generally, intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16 hours on a daily basis. Another option is fasting for 24 hours at least twice a week. For those who don’t want to fast, the 5:2 Diet is a great option. It entails consuming 500 – 600 calories for two nonconsecutive days in a week. You can eat normally for the rest of the day. However, keep in mind that you follow healthy eating practices when you are not fasting to make sure you don’t compensate for calories by eating too much.       

The Relation between Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes

In most cases, diabetes can be controlled through diet and physical activity. Therefore, it is easy to see the link between intermittent fasting and diabetes. Intermittent fasting contributes to managing diabetes in two ways.

1. Weight Loss

Excessive weight increases the risk of diabetes. For people with diabetes, excessive weight can lead to high insulin resistance. Moreover, it affects the overall health and increases the risk of various diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular diseases. For all these reasons, it is essential to maintain healthy weight, and intermittent fasting can help you in this regard.

Weight loss is one of the main reasons why many people turn to intermittent fasting. The reason why intermittent fasting works like a charm to reduce weight is that it cuts down your calorie consumption. Once you start consuming fewer calories daily, your metabolism improves and weight is reduced over time. This leads to various positive changes in the body, including better diabetes management.   

2. Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can be described as the condition when the cells in the body stop responding to insulin. It contributes to the risk of developing diabetes. In people already struggling with diabetes, high insulin resistance can make it difficult to manage diabetes and lead a healthy life.

It also increases the risk of other potentially dangerous conditions like high blood pressure. Therefore, it is essential to maintain healthy insulin levels. Diabetes is often treated with medicines that improve insulin sensitiveness in the body to make it more responsive to insulin.

There are various factors that contribute to insulin resistance. One of them is consuming too many calories, which may lead to excessive body fat. As we discussed above, intermittent fasting is an excellent way of keeping your calorie consumption in check, which is why many people opt for intermittent fasting to control diabetes.  

However, it is important to mention that higher than normal calorie consumption is not the only cause of insulin resistance. Here is a list of some other factors that may contribute to the development of insulin resistance in the body.

  • Inflammation: Increased oxidation stress in the body may cause insulin resistance.
  • Fructose: High intake of fructose from sugar can also lead to the development of insulin resistance in the body.
  • Physical activity: Inactivity or inadequate physical activity can also cause insulin resistance. 

Considering everything, if you are struggling with insulin resistance, intermittent fasting alone may not be able to reverse the problem. You may have to take multiple measures to get the desired results. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your doctor or healthcare provider in this regard.

Is Intermittent Fasting for You?

Now that you understand the link between intermittent fasting and diabetes, it is easy to think that intermittent fasting may be the solution to reverse diabetes. In some cases, anecdotal evidence suggests that intermittent fasting may even cure diabetes.

However, experts have different opinions. Some experts believe that intermittent fasting may not be the best solution for diabetes or even weight loss. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits as well as the side effects of intermittent fasting to help you decide if intermittent fasting is beneficial for you. 

Evidence-Based Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting affects the body in many ways. Here are some health benefits of intermittent fasting.

· Improved Function of Cells and Hormones

Various changes take place in the body when you don’t eat for a while. For instance, the body starts cell repair functions and changes in hormone levels occur. Insulin level drops and a surge in growth hormones is noticed. All these changes are beneficial for the body and may also help with controlling diabetes. 

· Lose Weight and Get Rid of Stubborn Belly Fat

 The significant drop in insulin levels promotes weight loss. It enhances the metabolism system in the body and also helps get rid of stubborn belly fat. The increased levels of growth hormones also help in burning fats and muscle gain. The healthy weight also helps in regulating the sugar level in the body, making it easier to manage diabetes.

· Intermittent Fasting May be Beneficial for Cardiovascular Health

Many experts believe that intermittent fasting may also be beneficial for your cardiovascular health. It takes care of various risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, inflammatory markers, etc.

· Reduced Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in the Body

Inflammation and oxidative stress increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, which not only increases the risk of diabetes in nondiabetic individuals but also makes it difficult for diabetic patients to control sugar levels. However, intermittent fasting can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

· Intermittent Fasting is Promotes Brain Health

A healthier body means a healthier brain. Intermittent fasting affects not only the health of your body but also your brain. Research suggests that it increases levels of brain hormones that may help in fighting depression and multiple other problems associated with brain health. However, more studies are required in this regard.  

Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting almost sounds too good to be true. Then why is it that many experts recommend avoiding it? It is because along with all the health benefits, intermittent fasting can have various side effects. The relation between intermittent fasting and diabetes may also not be positive after all. Take a look at some side effects of intermittent fasting.

· Intermittent Fasting Can Cause Sleep Deprivation and Low Energy

Low energy during the day, fatigue, and sleep deprivation are some common issues associated with intermittent fasting. The overall quality of life may decrease, increasing the stress of daily life.

· Poor Blood Glucose Control

Skipping meals is not always a good idea, especially if you have diabetes. People with diabetes need to maintain stable blood sugar levels. In some cases, intermittent fasting can lead to poorer blood glucose control than before.

· Increased Cortisol Levels in the Body

While intermittent fasting reduces the risk of diabetes and helps control sugar level in the body, it can increase cortisol levels, which increases stress. As a result, the positive effects may be negated due to increased stress.   

· Limited Human Research

The biggest reason why many experts recommend avoiding intermittent fasting is that there isn’t enough human research to confirm the health benefits.

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes – The Final Verdict

There is a complex relationship between intermittent fasting and diabetes. While some people swear by its effectiveness in managing diabetes, others may not experience the same effects. The truth is that the expert opinion on this matter is divided.

Preliminary research has shown promising results, however, in-depth studies are still required to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between intermittent fasting and diabetes.

Therefore, if you have diabetes or struggle with blood sugar regulation, it is advisable to consult your doctor or healthcare provider to make sure that intermittent fasting is a good fit for you. Also, it is best to quit intermittent fasting if you experience any side effects.   

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