Fasting Diets Prove Superior to Calorie Counting for Type 2 Diabetes Patients

by Ella

A recent study suggests that time-restricted diets may offer a more effective approach for individuals with type 2 diabetes seeking weight loss than traditional calorie counting.

The research reveals that individuals who restricted their daily eating to the hours between noon and 8 p.m. experienced greater weight loss than those who reduced their daily caloric intake by 25%. Both groups, however, achieved similar reductions in long-term blood sugar levels, as measured by hemoglobin A1C, a test that assesses blood sugar levels over the previous three months.


Lead researcher Krista Varady, a nutrition professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, emphasized the importance of offering diverse strategies for weight loss and blood sugar control to individuals with type 2 diabetes. She explained, “Some people find it difficult to count calories. Others don’t have weekly or monthly support and they need a dietary pattern that is simple to follow, such as watching the clock.”


In the United States, an increasing number of individuals, approximately 1 in 10, are grappling with diabetes. It is imperative to discover more effective methods for managing weight and blood sugar levels for these patients.


Although the study serves as a “proof of concept” demonstrating that time-restricted eating is a safe option for type 2 diabetes patients, Varady advised individuals with diabetes to consult their healthcare provider before embarking on such a dietary regimen. She also noted that certain medications for type 2 diabetes require food intake and should be administered accordingly.


Nonetheless, the positive impact of weight loss on blood sugar reduction can lead to a decrease in diabetes medications, Varady pointed out. She stated, “Individuals with type 2 diabetes usually have to increase their medication throughout their lifetime, often taking three oral medications at one time since most medications decrease HbA1C only a little. Being able to improve their glucose through just lifestyle is very important for reducing medication burden.”

In the study, 75 participants were divided into three groups: one followed a time-restricted diet, another reduced their calorie intake by 25%, and the third group adhered to neither diet plan. The average body mass index (BMI) was 39, signifying obesity, and the average HbA1C was 8.1% (the standard range is 4% to 5.6%, according to the National Institutes of Health).

After six months, those on the time-restricted diet experienced approximately a 4% reduction in body weight, while those who practiced calorie restriction achieved a 2% decrease in body weight. Both groups registered approximately a 1% drop in blood sugar levels.

The potential for sustained weight loss with a time-restricted diet over an extended period remains uncertain and necessitates further investigation. Varady underscored, “This is the first study comparing an eight-hour time-restricted diet to calorie counting in those with type 2 diabetes. Our findings will hopefully give doctors and dietitians confidence to implement time-restricted eating in individuals with diabetes who need an alternative diet to help with weight loss and blood sugar management.”

Imran Syed, a New York-based expert not involved in the study, believes that time-restricted dieting may be more manageable for individuals than traditional calorie counting. Syed, a dietitian at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, pointed out, “I’ve dealt with patients where mostly it’s always been caloric restricted. Caloric restriction has also been short-lasting because it’s a behavioral control over eating, whereas time restriction is something more approachable, where time can be easier to control.”

An easier-to-follow dietary approach increases the likelihood of patient adherence, Syed added. “The time restriction seems to be a better approach. It is something I would advise while taking medication management into consideration so blood sugar doesn’t drop too low,” he concluded.



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