Diet that mimics fasting could reverse diabetes, study finds

The gland produces several important hormones, including insulin which circulates in the blood.

In humans, the fasting-mimicking diet has been credited with helping people lose weight more effectively, and previous studies have also linked it to reducing risk factors for diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can not make insulin (type I) or is damaged by insulin resistance (type II), and the team from the University of Southern California says the diet reversed symptoms of both types of diabetes in mice.

Longo is the founder of and has an ownership interest in L-Nutra whose food products are used in the human studies of the fasting-mimicking diet.

Three million people in the United Kingdom have type 2 diabetes. On day one they are permitted to consume only 1,090 calories, and for the next four days they are restricted to just 725 calories per day.

The new theory was tested on mice, who were injected with chemicals that caused both types of diabetes.

They were then starved and re-fed, three times, and the disease began to reverse.

Then they have 25 days eating what they want - so overall it mimics periods of feast and starvation.

The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say United States researchers.

"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", Longo said.

The daily medication liraglutide slashes the chance of at-risk patients developing type 2 diabetes by almost 80 per cent, scientists at Imperial College London found.

But the study of 2,300 people, published yesterday in the Lancet medical journal, showed the drug was also very effective at stopping the condition developing in the first place.

The diet tricks the body into a fasting mode for a few days a month, even while carefully selected foods are still being eaten, and it could be enough to reboot the organ's key functions and restore insulin production, scientists say.

Longo and his team also examined pancreatic cell cultures from human donors and found that, in cells from type 1 diabetes patients, fasting also increased expression of the Ngn3 protein and accelerated insulin production.

That said, Antoun acknowledged that if you have common conditions associated with overweight and obesity such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, you should not use FMD without a doctor's approval.

'This is good science and does give promise for the future treatment of diabetes, but we need further studies to see whether this works in people as well as it has in mice'.

  • Joanne Flowers