Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A Diet That Mimics Fasting May Help Diabetes

If you have diabetes and enjoy eating, scientists have good news for you. A recently published study on mice and human cells has shown that a scientifically-designed diet, which mimics fasting, may trigger the development of new, healthy pancreatic cells to replace lost or damaged ones. While this doesn't mean you can go off all medications on day one, it is progress, and could mean progress for you.

FMD is similar to the ketogenic diet.
Source: Matt Dobson
"Cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet and a normal diet essentially reprogrammed non-insulin-producing cells into insulin-producing cells," said Valter Longo, who led the study and is the director of the Longevity Institute of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. The diet activated regeneration of pancreatic cells, which brought mice back from late-stage type I and II diabetes. An in vitro version also reactivated insulin-producing cells from type I diabetic patients. This is only the latest in a series of studies to show that a brief, periodic diet which mimics water fasting can have significant health benefits. When the mice were put on this diet for four days each week, healthy insulin production returned, insulin resistance fell and blood sugar stabilised. It was found that these diet cycles switched on genes that usually do not do anything past the foetal stage, genes which trigger the production of proteins necessary for tissue regeneration. "Fasting" also triggered production of the same protein in human cells.

How does it all work? Fasting is inherently stressful and damaging to the body, so a return to normal eating patterns (previous bad habits not required!) stimulates tissue regeneration by stem cells and other mechanisms. A fast-mimicking diet done in short bursts of several days avoids the negative side effects while triggering similar regeneration processes. The diet that these researchers developed is low-kilojoule, low-carbohydrate and low in protein, but high in fat, which causes similar changes to glucose, ketone bodies and growth factors compared with water fasting.

There has also been at least one small clinical trial demonstrating the benefits of this diet. When human volunteers completed three cycles, each for five days a month, they had decreased markers for aging and risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Overall, the fasting-mimicking diet looks promising in the fight against diabetes, and possibly other diseases, but larger clinical trials are needed to confirm its effects and how to use it.

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