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What is intermittent fasting?

A few weeks ago, I got a message from Jane Sandwood, a nutritionist who believes in intermittent fasting. I asked her to explain it for all of us – and to explain how it might be beneficial to those of us with diabetes.

Disclaimer: This is not dietary advice and you should not make any changes to your diet without consulting your doctor.

I’ve been a nutritionist for ten years, and I’ve learned two things. Firstly, dieting is not the solution to being out of shape or overweight, and secondly, everyone’s bodies are different. For example, a well-balanced, but restricted diet and exercise works for me, but my husband has found a fasting regime mixed with exercising on an empty stomach to be better for him.

I wanted to cover the topic of intermittent fasting and how it can help some people lose weight and actually boost their workouts, so I wrote a Guide to Intermittent Fasting. The guide covers what fasting is, how it compares to diets, who should not do it, and also the different kinds of fasting people can undertake.

Does intermittent fasting work for diabetics?

While genetics play a significant role in whether or not someone will become diabetic, for a lot of people, lifestyle choices and diet are the main contributing factors, especially in cases of Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association has stated that due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we’re raising our risks of becoming diabetic even further.

Way back in 1916, Dr Eliot Joslin, working at Harvard University, wrote about the benefits of using intermittent fasting techniques to aid control of diabetes. The main health benefits are as follows:

  • Lower blood sugar: Your body will use up the glucose in your system more effectively because you are fasting for between 12 and 16 hours.
  • Increase in metabolism: This will then increase the number of calories you burn, resulting in a better metabolic rate.
  • Increase in receptivity to insulin: As the glucose in your system is being used in a better, more efficient way, the insulin you do create will work better and do the job it’s supposed to, which is moving the sugar out of your body properly.
  • Healthy weight loss: You may find that intermittent fasting results in slower, healthier weight loss of 1-2lbs per week, which is ideal.

If you’re planning to try intermittent fasting, please speak to your healthcare practitioner first. Read this guide to find out more about how intermittent fasting can aid your health.

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  1. I am a type 2 diabetic on insulin twice daily and I am afraid I cannot agree that intermittent fasting is beneficial. Only yesterday I, without actually planning it, had a very light breakfast and absolutely nothing more, other than a cup of tea in the afternoon until my supper at about 6.30pm. I tested my glucose level just before supper and it was 14.8 mmol/L. I was told by my Doctor a few years ago that if your body starts getting low on sugar due to nothing being consumed, very often the body will secrete extra glucose to assist in the blood sugar remaining above the dangerously low levels as a safety feature. After a reasonable supper last night, my “fasted” sugar level this morning was 7.2 mmol/L which is what I would expect.

    • How fascinating, Evan! I wonder if it makes a difference what time of day the fasting is? I’ve only ever tried it overnight (ie finished dinner at 7pm and not eaten again till 7am). But I’ve also had those experiences of longer stretches than usual without eating and then unexplained high blood sugar.
      Perhaps I should add in a disclaimer that this is just an opinion and not to be taken as dietary advice – thanks for the reminder and your input!

      • I think most diabetics will basically fast once they have had their supper – after all, most of us check our blood sugar first thing in the morning after a period of at least 8 hours of fasting before we have eaten or have drunk a cup tea or coffee. It definitely does happen that the sugar levels are unexplainably higher after consuming little of nothing during the day which is what my Dr told me would happen. It has happened many times with me. Of course they say that a diabetic should have 5 or 6 meals a day (small ones in between main meals) which also makes sense now. Glad to have been able to input something that may help someone.

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