Intermittent fasting is safe for Type 2 diabetes

For many people trying to lose weight, counting time is easier than counting calories.

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Time-restricted eating (TRE) has become increasingly popular, yet longer-term randomized clinical trials have not evaluated its efficacy and safety in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D).

A new study by scientists at the University of Illinois Chicago aims to determine whether TRE is more effective for weight reduction and glycemic control than daily calorie restriction (CR) or a control condition in adults with T2D.

The study suggests that intermittent fasting, sometimes called time-restricted eating, can assist persons with Type 2 diabetes in managing their blood sugar levels and losing weight.

Over six months, individuals who restricted their food intake to an eight-hour window each day, from midday to eight p.m., had more significant weight loss than those who followed a 25% calorie reduction plan. Hemoglobin A1C testing, which indicates blood sugar levels over the previous three months, showed comparable drops in long-term blood sugar levels in both groups. 

The study involved 75 participants- categorized into three groups: those who followed the time-restricted eating rules, those who reduced calories, and a control group.

Over six months, measurements were made of the participants’ weight, waist circumference, blood sugar levels, and other health indicators.

Compared to the calorie-reducing group, participants in the time-restricted eating group found it easier to stick to the regimen. The reason for this, according to the researchers, maybe in part because many of the participants had probably already attempted and failed at dieting in the form of calorie restriction, which is typically recommended to patients with diabetes as a first line of defense. Furthermore, even though they weren’t told to cut back on calories, the individuals in the time-restricted eating group did so by eating within a set window.

Senior author Krista Varady said“Our study shows that time-restricted eating might be an effective alternative to traditional dieting for people who can’t do the traditional diet or are burned out on it. For many people trying to lose weight, counting time is easier than counting calories.”

Throughout the six-month trial, no significant adverse events were recorded. There was no difference in the incidence of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) between the diet and control groups.

According to the researchers, the current percentage of Americans with diabetes is 1 in 10, but if current trends continue, that figure is projected to grow to 1 in 3 by 2050. Therefore, expanding the range of alternatives for managing blood sugar and weight for these people is essential.  

Forty percent of the study’s participants were Hispanic, and just over half were Black. This is noteworthy since those populations have higher rates of diabetes, so it is beneficial to have studies showing how well time-restricted eating works for them.

The study serves as evidence that eating a restricted diet is healthy for persons with Type 2 diabetes; scientists advised people with diabetes to speak with their physicians before beginning any kind of diet.

Journal Reference:

  1. Vasiliki Pavlou, Sofia Cienfuegos, Shuhao Lin. Effect of Time-Restricted Eating on Weight Loss in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes. A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.39337
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