Some experts say fasting could cure everything–from a plump waistline to cancer.
And while there’s not enough proof it could cure certain illnesses, research now shows it has a new benefit: Lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The research, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, studied the effects of fasting in yeast, mice, and people, but it was the results they garnered from their human experiment that made news. While they did not exclusively fast, their calories were dwindled down to 725 calories for around a week to mimic the effects of fasting–something which lowered their blood glucose and reduced their type 2 diabetes risk.
Now researchers want to see if this method could also help improve other health conditions, such as cancer.
“We wanted to know, what if you let people eat normally, but then once every few weeks you fool the system into thinking it was starving?” says Valter Longo, a biogerontologist and cell biologist at the University of Southern California’s David School of Gerontology and researcher of the study. “Someday, doctors might want to begin prescribing similar diets for patients with markers showing they are at risk for cancers and other illnesses–much as physicians today prescribe special diets and medications for patients with high cholesterol who are at risk for heart disease.”
For his human experiment, Longo recruited 38 healthy adults between the ages of 18 to 70, splitting them into two groups to test out two different diet methods. The first group served as the control, eating a diet they normally ate. The second group, on the other hand, followed a five-day dieting routine once every month to mimic fasting. For the first day, they ate around 1,100 calories, whereas the next four days they ate only 725 calories.
This diet method was repeated for a total of three months before researchers examined their health once again.
The result? Those on the fasting diet had lower fasting blood glucose, something which indicated their risk of type 2 diabetes was lower. Normally, people at risk for this disease have higher blood glucose levels.
Better yet, the participants enjoyed the diet too, according to Longo.
“We try to make it as close as possible to something that looks like normal food,” says Longo. “I think people noticed a lot of results, and that motivated them to come back. Everything is getting a little younger and it goes back to working much better.”
However, Longo falls short of recommending this diet to everyone. Though it is effective, he says this diet is a “strong intervention,” and should only be carried out under medical supervision. Instead, further testing will need to determine how this diet should be used–if it’s proven safe, that is.
“This is actually a strong intervention,” says Longo.
Want to take the risk yourself? Ask your doctor about changing your current diet–though it isn’t safe for anyone, most healthy adults may be able to try it out.
Readers: Have you tried fasting before?