Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Diabetes?


Find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of attempting intermittent fasting if you have diabetes.

Consider attempting intermittent fasting as a way to control your diabetes. Almost e very illness seems to have a cure when it comes to intermittent fasting, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and weight loss.

I’m usually wary of new nutrition trends as a registered dietitian because the majority of them lack substantial scientific support.Even though the body of research on intermittent fasting is expanding quickly, there is still much to learn about this well-liked “diet.”

Due to its potential benefits in both treating and preventing type 2 diabetes, intermittent fasting has gained a lot of attention.

There are already over 34 million diabetics in the US alone, and the number is rising yearly.

The three main components of managing the illness are eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and controlling stress.

However, it’s not always obvious whether some eating habits can be more advantageous to managing diabetes than others.

Is there a benefit to intermittent fasting over other dietary modifications for the treatment of diabetes? To learn more about intermittent fasting, including its advantages and possible disadvantages, continue reading.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Let’s begin by going through the fundamentals of intermittent fasting. Although IF is more of an umbrella phrase for a variety of eating patterns that entail fasting in one way or another for a predetermined amount of time, most people mistakenly believe it to be a diet (here’s more information on intermittent fasting).

A large body of research on intermittent fasting (IF) examines the daily time-restricted feeding strategy, in which mice or humans are fed meals at specific times of the day, typically 16 hours should be fasted and 8 hours should be spent feeding.

For instance, a person might fast for sixteen hours and then eat between the hours of eleven in the morning and seven in the evening.

The 5:2 and alternate-day fasting approaches are two more popular IF regimes. For ADF, you should eat a typical diet on days when you are not fasting and 500–700 calories every other day. Similar ideas underlie the 5:2 strategy, although twice a week fasting is allowed rather than every other day.

Whatever the approach, IF could be a desirable substitute for more conventional calorie-counting or whole food group elimination strategies because it can be less cumbersome, more flexible and more intuitive, especially for people who tend to skip breakfast or eat less on the weekends.

Nevertheless, it’s obviously not suitable for everyone, and individuals with diabetes need to take other things into account (more on that later).

What happens in your body when you fast?

Your body undergoes a process known as metabolic shift when you fast intermittently. A person usually experiences metabolic switching after fasting for eight to twelve hours.During this process,the body runs out of glucose (also known as blood sugar) and switches to burning ketone bodies for fuel by breaking down stored fat.

Recent studies that were published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicate that there are further advantages to this metabolic shift from using glucose to ketones as fuel.

Researchers believe that IF may be more effective than other diets for controlling metabolic disorders including diabetes and weight loss because of the metabolic changes that take place during fasting.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting for diabetics?

Our blood sugar can be significantly impacted by fasting, but what exactly is the scientific consensus around intermittent fasting and diabetes?

Let’s start with the basics

How does diabetes work?

People with diabetes have problems digesting or metabolizing carbohydrates.

Subsequently, when we consume carbohydrates, our bodies convert them into glucose, a simple sugar that is released into the circulation and subsequently used by our cells as fuel.

Once glucose enters our bloodstream, our body releases a hormone called insulin which helps our muscles, liver, fat tissues and brain take up glucose from the bloodstream and get that we can burn it to produce energy within our cells.

Obesity and excess weight growth are two examples of conditions that can hinder our cells’ capacity to use insulin, which builds up glucose in the bloodstream and results in high blood sugar.

The underlying cause of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes is a condition known as insulin resistance (see more about the fundamentals of blood sugar management for diabetes).

Does intermittent fasting help with diabetes?

Like a lot of questions in the nutrition world, the answer isn’t entirely clear. As of right now, animals have been used in the majority of IF and diabetes research investigations.

Although this has provided some insight into how intermittent fasting may aid in the treatment of diabetes, there is undoubtedly conflicting human studies.

According to research on animals, IF increases insulin sensitivity and keeps mice from becoming obese. In humans, IF effectively addressed insulin resistance and decreased hemoglobin A1C, a blood sugar management measure over several months,in patients with insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, according to a recent case report published in BMJ.

An additional encouraging result was that all study participants were able to completely stop taking their insulin after implementing IF for a few months.

Men with prediabetes were randomly assigned to one of two groups in a recent clinical experiment. One group followed an IF protocol that involved 6-hour timed feeding, while the other group followed a 12-hour feeding routine for five weeks. For most people, a 12-hour window means eating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The males in the IF group showed lower levels of insulin resistance than the men in the 12-hour feeding group, according to the study’s findings. Regardless of how much weight was reduced during the research, the IF group performed better. In another similar trial, IF also resulted in improved glucose control among 107 women who were overweight or obese.

However, a comprehensive review of the current research on IF and diabetes shows that several studies have also found that IF has no additional benefit to insulin resistance and hemoglobin A1C compared to a typical calorie-controlled diet.

It’s important to note that much of the research on IF has been done on overweight and obese individuals with insulin resistance,meaning results may not apply to people who have diabetes,but are not overweight.Furthermore, some studies have found IF to be more beneficial for men than women.

In essence, there are simply not enough high-quality studies conducted on a variety of male and female populations to conclude with certainty that IF is superior to a conventional healthy diet for the management of diabetes.

Furthermore, the ideal length, frequency, and intensity of fasting that will result in metabolic advantages that are particularly beneficial for diabetics remain to be discovered.

Lastly, there might be a few theoretical and scientifically supported disadvantages to intermittent fasting for diabetics. Here’s what we know so far.

What drawbacks might intermittent fasting for diabetes have?

I, along with many other doctors, have discovered that in susceptible people, intermittent fasting can aggravate disordered eating patterns.

Eating too slowly can cause changes in hunger hormones, which in turn can increase appetite and desires. For many people this can lead to overeating and sometimes binge eating.

As far as the research goes, some studies have found that IF may increase binge eating in women with bulimia. Others have discovered that in overweight and obese people, IF may really help reduce disordered eating.

Therefore, IF may be hazardous to those who are normal weight or who already have eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors, according to the data that is currently available. The adverse effects of intermittent fasting may also be more likely to affect women.

A few studies have discovered that long-term intermittent fasting in obese and overweight women caused their menstrual cycles to be longer than usual, and that in women of normal weight, it changed their levels of reproductive hormones. Although more research is required to fully understand how intermittent fasting (IF) affects women’s menstrual cycles, this is something to be aware of if you’re considering trying IF.

Furthermore, one study examined how three weeks of IF affected overweight men and women. Results found that men had improved measures of glucose control, but women actually had impaired glucose control.

Another important thing to keep in mind—the majority of studies that look at intermittent fasting in humans recommend healthy eating (not feasting) on non-restricted days.

Even if you are losing weight, overindulging on days when you are not fasting might be detrimental to your health, according to research.

Additional adverse effects of intermittent fasting that have been documented are:

Water retention
General weakness
Increased feelings of hunger
Worse mood
Heightened irritability
Difficulties concentrating
Increased fatigue
Eating-related thoughts
Fear of going overboard and losing control when there are no restrictions

Bottom line

Overall, additional research is needed to fully understand the possible advantages and disadvantages of intermittent fasting for diabetics; however, certain women, those who struggle with eating disorders, and those who maintain a so-called “normal” body weight may not be the ideal candidates for intermittent fasting. Consult a certified dietician or your healthcare team before making significant changes to your dietary habits. They can offer more tailored advice.


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