As a type 2 diabetic, you probably know that one of the best ways to control your diabetes is to lose weight. In fact, losing weight can benefit you in other ways: It can help lower your blood glucose level, prevent cardiovascular disease and improve your overall quality of life. In recent times, intermittent fasting has become popular on social media with many gurus touting its efficacy in helping people lose weight.
What is intermittent fasting?
This is an eating pattern that alternates between eating and fasting during a specified period. This type of eating has become popular with those who don’t want to be restricted in what they eat. In that sense it is not regarded as a diet, although if done properly it does reduce your caloric intake. As a type 2 diabetic, you may be considering intermittent fasting or may have even attempted it. Whatever the case, let’s take a critical look at it to see if it’s right for you.
Intermittent fasting may take various forms
- Choose a “window” – what this means is that you eat only during a specified period. For example, if you usually have breakfast at 8.00 in the morning and eat your last meal at 8.00 at night, you’re using a twelve-hour window. In order to restrict your eating, you would have to shorten that window by at least four hours. Most people tend to choose a six or eight-hour window.
- Fast for 24 hours –with or without a 500-calorie meal – for two non-consecutive days a week. This is called the 5: 2 diet.
- Fast one day a week for 24 hours.
Intermittent fasting studies
The authors of a new viewpoint on intermittent fasting published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report on five small clinical trials of people with type 2 diabetes – only one had more than 63 participants – consisting of five fasting frequencies:
- 18 to 20 hours a day for two weeks
- 2 days a week for 12 weeks
- 3 – 4 days a week for 7-11 months
- 4 days a week for 12 weeks
- 17 days in 4 months
The results showed that intermittent fasting was tied to weight loss and most of the studies also found decreases in A1c, blood pressure, but not insulin resistance, i.e. when your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy.
Pros and cons of intermittent fasting
- Pro: You get to eat whatever you like. Con: If you eat a lot of high-calorie foods during your eating window, you might not lose weight.
- Pro: If done properly, you can lower your A1C and LDL (bad cholesterol) . Con: If you do not lose weight, your cholesterol might not improve.
- People who are not diabetic may benefit from intermittent fasting – weight loss, improved quality of life. Con: People with type 2 diabetes run the risk of low blood pressure, weakness, dizziness and headaches. However the main issue, according to the report, is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which can occur even with a change in medication protocol.
- Pro: People who are able to stay on a 6 or eight-hour window tend to love it. Con: There is insufficient data to prove that intermittent fasting is more effective than caloric restriction for reducing A1c and controlling diabetes.
In conclusion, intermittent fasting, if done properly -you can’t fast one day and feast the next – can help you lose weight and control your diabetes. However, as the doctors found, intermittent fasting comes with several risks for people with type 2 diabetes, the major one being hypoglycemia. They also found that intermittent fasting can cause your glucose level to fluctuate widely, with hypoglycemia (low ) during fasting times and hyperglycemia (high ) when you are eating. Therefore, the doctors warn, “Patients with type 2 diabetes should consider intermittent fasting carefully” and “not undertake it without the involvement of their physician.”