Could restricting your diet for a couple of days a week put type 2 diabetes in remission? That’s the controversial claim scientists of a small new study are making as they fan the fire around a diet fad known as intermittent fasting. But many health professionals, including those at the American Diabetes Association, argue that the approach can be dangerous for people with diabetes, whose bodies cannot control their blood sugar without careful diet, medication, and sometimes insulin management.
In the study, published October 9, 2018, in the journal BMJ Case Reports, intermittent fasting, in which eating is limited during certain times of the day or week, reportedly helped three middle-aged men with type 2 diabetes lose weight, get off their insulin, and reduce or get off their oral medication.
“The problem is we don’t treat diabetes as a dietary problem; we treat it with a lot of drugs, and that never addresses the root problem of the diabetes,” says principal investigator Jason Fung, MD, a kidney specialist at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and author of The Complete Guide to Fasting,and The Obesity Code, a 2016 book thought to help popularize intermittent fasting.
The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Weight and Blood Sugar
About 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight, according to the Obesity Society. Weight loss is a known treatment for type 2, which affects the majority of the 30.3 million people with diabetes, as it helps people with the disease reduce insulin resistance and absorb blood glucose more effectively. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being overweight makes it harder to control diabetes and is a risk factor for diabetes-related health complications.
The hallmark of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells, muscles, and liver can’t effectively absorb glucose (blood sugar). This causes hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and in serious cases requires medication, such as Glucophage (metformin) and insulin, to lower.