Fasting-like Diet Could Reverse Diabetes

A periodic water-only diet may improve glucose control in diabetes.

A diet designed to mimic the effects of fasting was observed to reverse diabetes in a new study published by Cell. The fasting-like diet was observed to increase the growth of pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin, and reduce symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“Cycling a fasting-mimicking diet and a normal diet essentially reprogrammed non-insulin-producing cells into insulin-producing cells,” said researcher Valter Longo, PhD. “By activating the regeneration of pancreatic cells, we were able to rescue mice from late-stage type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We also reactivated insulin production in human pancreatic cells from type 1 diabetes patients.”

The reprogrammed cells and organs created a phenomenon where damaged cells were replaced with functional ones, according to the study. This new analysis is the latest in a series to assess the health benefits of a brief fasting-like, water-only diet.

In diabetes, the pancreas loses beta cells, which results in destabilized blood glucose levels. In the study, the investigators administered high doses of streptozotocin to kill beta cells and simulate type 1 diabetes in mice. They also examined mice models of type 2 diabetes with reduced insulin production and increased insulin resistance.

The investigators discovered that mice models with both types of diabetes were reversed by being placed on a fasting-like diet for 4 days per week. The mice were seen to have healthy insulin production, reduced insulin resistance, and stable blood glucose levels, according to the study. These findings were also observed in mice with later-stage diabetes.

The fasting-like diet was seen to turn on genes that are typically only active in the pancreases of fetal mice, which then set off the production of the neurogenin-3 (Ngn3) protein, which created new beta cells, according to the study.

In cell cultures of human pancreatic cells, the study authors discovered that fasting increased Ngn3 expression, and increased insulin production in type 1 diabetes. This suggests that cycles of a water-only diet may also be able to reverse diabetes in humans.

In a previous study, the team found that the diet could reduce the risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and age-related diseases in humans who adhered to the diet for 5 days per month for a total of 3 months.

Other studies have suggested that a fasting-like diet may also improve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, increase the efficacy of chemotherapy for cancer, and decrease visceral fat.

These latest findings show that a fasting-like diet could effectively treat, and even reverse, type 1 and type 2 diabetes in humans.

“These findings warrant a larger FDA trial on the use of the fasting-mimicking diet to treat human diabetes patients to help them produce normal levels of insulin while improving insulin function,” Dr Longo concluded. “Hopefully, people with diabetes could one day be treated with an FDA-approved fasting-mimicking diet for a few days each month and gain control over their insulin production and blood sugar.”