Intermittent Fasting Outperforms Diabetes Drugs in New Study
Intermittent Fasting Outperforms Diabetes Drugs in New Study

By Sherami Tsai

A new study that came out on Friday shows that intermittent fasting may control blood sugar more effectively than popular diabetes medications for people with Type 2 diabetes. Participants on a 5:2 intermittent fasting diet—eating normally for five days and reducing calories for two—had better blood sugar levels and greater weight loss than those on standard diabetes drugs. This suggests that dietary changes could be a potent method for managing diabetes.

Study Highlights and Key Findings

The EARLY [Exploration of Treatment of Newly Diagnosed Overweight/Obese Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus] study, a randomized clinical trial conducted across nine centers in China, assessed the effects of an intermittent fasting diet on glycemic control in adults with Type 2 diabetes.

The trial involved 405 participants, divided into three groups: one following the 5:2 fasting diet with meal replacements (MR) and the other two taking either metformin or empagliflozin (drugs to treat Type 2 diabetes).

Those on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet had two non-consecutive fasting days each week, during which they consumed a low-calorie meal replacement product, limiting intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.

On the other five days, they ate their usual breakfast and lunch but had a different meal replacement product for dinner while monitoring their overall calorie intake.

All participants received comprehensive dietary and exercise guidance, along with general diabetes education from nutritionists and research physicians.

Over 16 weeks, participants on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet experienced a significant drop in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels—a key measure of blood sugar control. The fasting group had an average reduction of 1.9 percent, compared to 1.6 percent in the metformin group and 1.5 percent in the empagliflozin group.

The study also reported significant weight loss for those on the fasting diet. Participants in the 5:2 group lost an average of 21 pounds, compared to 12 pounds in the metformin group and 13 pounds in the empagliflozin group.

The study concluded that “the 5:2 MR approach may serve as an effective initial lifestyle intervention instead of antidiabetic drugs for patients with type 2 diabetes.”

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes

Intermittent fasting has garnered significant attention for its potential benefits in managing blood glucose levels, particularly for individuals with Type 2 diabetes. According to Dr. Jason Fung, a leading expert in intermittent fasting and author of “The Diabetes Code,” limiting calorie intake on certain days helps stabilize blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

Fasting allows your body to lower insulin levels and burn stored fat for energy, improving insulin sensitivity. This means your cells are better able to use glucose, reducing overall blood sugar levels. A 2023 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that 47 percent of intermittent fasting participants achieved diabetes remission.

“It’s nothing more or less than give your body a break and let it burn off all that energy that you’ve stored away because that’s the natural thing to do if you’ve stored too much,” Dr. Fung said in a talk presented at the “Food for Thought 2023: Rising to the challenge of obesity and diabetes” conference.

Another study from 2022, published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, found that intermittent fasting significantly improves blood glucose and lipid levels, as well as insulin resistance, in patients with metabolic syndrome. The meta-analysis showed reductions in fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin levels, and body weight. The study concluded, “Intermittent fasting diets have certain therapeutic effects on blood glucose and lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome and significantly improve insulin resistance.”

A Manageable Approach

The 5:2 intermittent fasting method has shown promise due to its manageable structure. This approach allows individuals to maintain their regular lifestyle most of the week while reaping the benefits of fasting. These studies highlight the potential of intermittent fasting as a practical, non-pharmaceutical approach to managing Type 2 diabetes, offering a flexible option for patients seeking lifestyle-based interventions.

“Studies performed on people with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) have shown that intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss, improvements in glycemic control, and even in some cases, remission of diabetes,” Dr. Andrew Demidowich, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine told The Epoch Times in an email. “This doesn’t mean that intermittent fasting will work for, or is even safe for everyone with T2D, but this dietary strategy is a promising area of active research.”

Practical Tips for Implementing Intermittent Fasting

Dr. Demidowich offers practical tips and considerations for those interested in trying the intermittent fasting diet.

  • Start Gradually: If you’re new to fasting, ease into it by gradually reducing your calorie intake on fasting days. This can help your body adjust and make the transition smoother.
  • Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods: On fasting days, focus on eating low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. The meal replacement products used in the study provided essential nutrients while keeping calorie intake low. You can create similar meals with lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is crucial, especially on fasting days. Hydration helps control hunger and keeps your body functioning optimally.
  • Monitor Your Progress: Keep a food diary to track your intake and how you feel after eating. Monitoring your blood sugar levels, weight, and overall health can help you understand how intermittent fasting affects your body.
  • Consult a Health Care Professional: Before starting any new diet regimen, especially if you have a medical condition such as diabetes, it’s essential to consult with a health care provider. They can provide personalized advice and ensure that the diet is safe for you.

Implementing these tips can make the intermittent fasting diet more manageable and effective, allowing you to experience its potential benefits for blood sugar control and overall health.


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