In the past few days, some controversial claims have grabbed our attention, suggesting that intermittent fasting may increase the risk of diabetes. The findings were announced at an annual meeting organised by the European Society of Endocrinology. So the big question is: how reasonable are these claims?
Well, if you talk to global authorities on the subject, they will tell you that the opposite is true. Intermittent fasting actually decreases the risk of diabetes. Plus these experts have proven scientific research to back their side of the debate.
We asked intermittent fasting researcher and Associate Professor of Nutrition, Dr Krista Varardy Ph.D. as well as Nephrologist, intermittent fasting expert, author of The Diabetes Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting, Dr Jason Fung, to give us the facts.
How accurate is this study?
Regarding the research paper that claims intermittent fasting might increase the risk of diabetes, Dr Krista Varady is quick to highlight the fact that paper is currently unpublished and is not peer-reviewed. On top of that, the study was not conducted on humans, so we should be careful when weighing up its conclusions. That’s code for: the results are murky and we are sceptical.
“The study was also done on rodents, and while there is certainly no doubt that more research can be done, it’s worthwhile bearing in mind that there are fundamental differences between rats and humans. As the findings haven’t been published and only the abstract is available, it’s difficult to ascertain the exact methods used, and almost impossible to apply these findings to the human population,” says Dr Varady.
In fact, Dr Jason Fung thinks this is all a big hoo-ha over nothing. “It was basically a study on rats. An abstract that got a bit of media attention. Ultimately it’s an attention-grabbing headline without any real reason for concern,” says Dr Fung.
Dr Fung has decoded the facts behind the headlines and explains there’s no cause for concern. “These findings are completely at odds with all current evidence and clinical experience,” he confirms.
Proven Research on Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes
Dr. Fung has been successfully reversing type 2 diabetes in humans using dietary strategies including intermittent fasting for over five years with some notable success, including published case studies in medical literature. So we trust that he knows what he’s talking about!
What about the existing, scientifically-proven evidence about intermittent fasting and diabetes? In a nutshell, everything points to suggest fasting can actually improve health (and diabetes risk) in a variety of different ways. Boo-ya!
“Current research in humans shows that intermittent fasting lowers glucose, insulin and insulin resistance in obese and pre-diabetic subjects,” explains Dr. Varady. “We definitely need more research in the diabetic population, but so far, all the findings show improvements in glucose regulation.”
Should we be worried about these new findings? Dr Fung’s response is immediate and resounding: “No. We have thousands of years of humans fasting with no increased risk of diabetes. Diabetes exploded in the 1990s when people stopped fasting. If you don’t eat, you rest the pancreas, you don’t damage it. That’s why pancreatitis is treated with bowel rest.”
The bottom line: This is one unpublished study that wasn’t peer-reviewed. Compare that to decades of published, peer-reviewed findings which show the benefits of intermittent fasting, and the scales tip unequivocally.
Intermittent fasting for three months decreases pancreatic islet mass and increases insulin resistance in Wistar rats by Ana Claudia Munhoz Bonassa and Angelo Rafael Carpinelli was a conference talk discussed at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting ECE 2018 on Saturday 19 May 2018. There is no paper available as this is not published work.