Vijay has watched several of his male and female colleagues drop two or three sizes by intermittent fasting. Although it only became popular about two to three years ago, intermittent fasting has soared to popularity because of quick and visible effects in weight loss that keep its followers motivated. Moreover their friends, family, and colleagues follow suit after witnessing tangible effects. Vijay desperately wants to follow suit because he hates being obese at only 40. But Vijay has type 2 diabetes and he is not sure whether intermittent fasting is for diabetes (type 2) individuals. He worries that it might have some terrible impact on him.
Is intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2) patients a good idea? Vijay has heard – as have most of us – that eating at consistent timings is ideal for diabetics. Should Vijay, and others suffering with type 2 diabetes, consider intermittent fasting, irrespective of whether they are obese or not?
Let’s find out!
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of diet (like Keto and Atkins and all the other diets that became famous over the decades). It involves a short window of consuming food, followed by a longer window – or in some cases an equal window – of eating nothing.
The most commonly seen format of this diet in India seems to be the 16:8 format where people fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. Other formats might include eating every alternate day or eating for 5 days and starving oneself for 2.
Weight Loss – the common thread between intermittent fasting and diabetes
People have seen lower BMI and drastically reduced belly fat and an overall reduction in weight and size. Some reports say 10% weight loss can be expected, although many of us would have personally witnessed overweight people who have nearly halved their size thanks to intermittent fasting.
However, given that intermittent fasting is too new for anyone to claim to know its long-term effects on anyone.
As a result, there is no way to know if intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2) is a bad thing or a good thing, or a moot thing.
There was a study in 2018 that found intermittent fasting for diabetes patients to have extremely positive effects. If you have been doing any research at all about managing type 2 diabetes, you will have stumbled upon some talk about this study.
This is certainly encouraging news, especially because the study’s participants (who were on insulin at the time) no longer needed the insulin after only one month of fasting 3 times per week. That said, the sample size was nearly negligible: only 3 people participated in the study and one month is not sufficient time to study how the blood sugar levels of the individuals progressed, and whether they had any negative side effects. One cannot, in all fairness, call this empirical evidence. Some staunch researchers might even refer to this as just anecdotal evidence.
Complications linked to intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2)
There could be a lot of complications linked to intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2).
- Low blood sugar could occur from long periods of not eating anything.
- High blood sugar could also arise from the stress and anxiety linked to extreme hunger.
- In a state of extreme hunger, one might not be able to control one’s cravings, or might overheat resulting in a glucose spike.
- The 2018 study lasted about 4 weeks (given that it covered a month) but a 2020 study on intermittent fasting in rats found damage to pancreatic cells and insulin resistance.
What should one do if they are keen to try intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2)
A lot of people opt for intermittent fasting to lose the last few pounds of stubborn weight, or to lose weight while not necessarily cutting out high carb foods and other deliciously unhealthy items. However, when you are diabetic you need to avoid these anyway. You already need to play it healthy, so why curb your eating hours to add to everything else?
Consult your doctor
Intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2) could result in hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia or high blood sugar/ low blood sugar respectively. Speak to your doctor before making any drastic lifestyle changes. Intermittent fasting is at the very top of the drastic lifestyle changes hierarchy.
Monitor blood sugar levels
Keep a constant, consistent, and regular check on blood sugar levels before and after the scheduled eating hours/ days and throughout the period when you are not eating as well.
Monitor moods and overall health
Consider your stress and anxiety levels, anger and irritability levels, cravings, sleep and sleep regularity when you are fasting.
Maintain a journal
All of those sugar level readings, lifestyle, sleep and mood changes are going to be hard to remember so it is advisable to use a journal. Be sure to note dates and timings accurately and don’t throw away old records; at least not initially.
Understand diabetic diets – they’re easier
You need not necessarily undergo intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2). In fact, you need not take on a truckload of misery. The diabetic diet is a lot less dire than one might imagine. You don’t need to cut out everything delicious, just foods with a high glycemic index and foods and beverages with concentrated sugar. Dark chocolate, Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, popcorn, garlic – all delicious – are accepted as part of a diabetic diet. Balance and moderation are key.
Since we are yet to observe the long-term effects of intermittent fasting for diabetes (type 2) patients, it might be a safer bet to stick to what has been proven by empirical evidence. If you just have to try it, however, do consult your doctor.