November 22, 2023

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes: Potential Benefits and Consideration

In this article we take a closer look at Intermittent Fasting and share with you the risks and benefits.


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Home / Living with Diabetes / Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes: Potential Benefits and Consideration

If you’re like many people with diabetes, you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your dietary needs—and you’ve likely concluded that most fad diets aren’t worth serious consideration. Compared to a well-thought-out diabetes diet, these diets tend to be overly restrictive while promising more health benefits than they can realistically deliver. 

But while it’s easy to assume intermittent fasting (IF) falls into the “fad diet” category, this popular approach to meal scheduling seems to have some noteworthy advantages for diabetes patients. Keep reading for a closer look at the potential benefits (and risks) associated with intermittent fasting and advice on incorporating one of these plans into your diabetes treatment regimen.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a weight-loss strategy that encourages the body to burn stored fat for energy. To accomplish this, people fasting for weight loss alternate between periods of eating food and periods of fasting (or reduced caloric intake). 

Weight loss is an essential part of successful diabetes management, and fasting can help quite a bit in this regard—in fact, it may even help reduce people’s insulin requirements. Though more research needs to be done on the advantages of fasting, other health benefits associated with this practice include:

  • Reduced fasting levels of blood sugar
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less triglycerides and LDL cholesterol
  • Body detoxification
  • Lower inflammation
  • Improvements with arthritis, asthma, and other illnesses
  • Assistance with the body’s removal of damaged cells (which may subsequently reduce people’s risk of cancer)

The Risks of a Fasting Diet

With intermittent fasting, you can significantly lower your blood glucose levels—but there’s a chance this will work too well. People living with type 2 diabetes have an elevated risk of hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar), and waiting too long between meals can easily contribute to this. Hypoglycemia often causes symptoms such as shakiness and sweating; severe cases can result in seizures or death.

While the idea of adding IF to your diabetes management strategy may be concerning because of this, fasting seems to be relatively safe for people with type 2 diabetes. Still, fasting can have other noteworthy side effects, such as:

  • Hyperglycemia (if the liver reacts to your fast by releasing stored glucose)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Bad breath
  • Irritability
  • Excess hunger
  • Reduced energy levels (which may make exercising more difficult)
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Dehydration

Calorie Counting vs. Intermittent Fasting

Though fasting diets aren’t devoid of risks, they can still be a helpful tool for diabetes management. Even so, it’s easy to wonder how these plans stack up in comparison to more traditional methods of weight loss like calorie counting. As it turns out, both of these strategies seem to offer roughly similar benefits.

 

A recent study featured at the American Society of Nutrition’s annual conference focused on three groups—a control group, a second group of patients who were allowed to eat between noon and 8 p.m. daily, and a third group of patients who were asked to reduce their calorie intake by 25 percent. Nearly 60 overweight/obese people with type 2 diabetes were assigned at random to the three groups.

 

After six months, members of the IF group had lost 4.3 percent of their body weight, while people in the calorie restriction group lost approximately 2.5 percent of their body weight. Based on these findings, there does not appear to be a statistically significant difference between calorie counting and intermittent fasting when it comes to weight loss for people with diabetes.

What Intermittent Fasting Schedule Is Right for You?

Before adopting an IF diet, you’ll need to decide which schedule you want to follow. A few typical intermittent fasting diets include:

Early Time-Restricted Feeding Diet

The early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) diet involves fitting your meals for the day into a predetermined span of time. This period can be as long as 10 hours, as short as six hours, or somewhere in between.

It’s believed that the eTRF diet can help with weight loss due to a potential connection with your circadian rhythm—that is, the “internal clock” controlling your metabolism and your sleep/wake schedule. When you avoid eating in the late evening, your overnight fast will last longer, potentially speeding up your metabolism and reducing your glucose levels.

The 5:2 Diet

Unlike the eTRF diet, the 5:2 diet doesn’t involve eating at a specific time of day. Instead, people following this diet consume a normal amount of calories five days a week. On the other two (non-consecutive) days, they follow a reduced-calorie diet. Research suggests that the 5:2 diet can help reduce people’s insulin resistance while encouraging weight loss among people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. 

Lose Weight With Help From US MED

While intermittent fasting isn’t right for everyone, this weight loss strategy appears to be helpful for some people with diabetes. If you want to follow an intermittent fasting schedule, don’t jump in without a plan—instead, talk to your diabetes healthcare team first. And if you do end up trying this diet, make a point of checking your blood sugar more frequently than normal.

Of course, fasting for weight loss isn’t the only way people with diabetes can lose weight and improve their health. For help finding the right diabetes diet for you, take a look at the blog articles and nutritious recipes available right here at US MED. We can also help you manage diabetes in our role as America’s most reliable diabetes supplier. If you need continuous glucose monitoring systems, diabetes testing supplies, or any other products in this category, order them from us today!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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