A fasting diet has been shown to reverse diabetes in mice.
A US study published in the journal Cell shows the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) triggered the re-growth of pancreatic cells in the damaged organ leading to a reduction of symptoms of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
The results raise the prospect of treating diabetes without the need of insulin regulating drugs, lead researcher Professor Valter Longo from the University of Southern California said.
“Cycles of fasting-mimicking diet and a normal diet essentially reprogrammed non-insulin producing cells into insulin-producing cells,” said Prof Longo.
Previous research has already shown the diet reduces risk factor markers for cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The FMD involves a monthly fasting cycle in which calorie consumption is cut drastically by around two-thirds for five days. The patient then returns to normal levels of food intake for the remaining 25 days.
To maintain a healthy weight, a man needs to consume 2,500 calories per day and a woman 2,000 calories.
People on the FMD make do with less than 800 calories during the fasting periods.
For the mice study, the diet was adapted by halving calorie intake on day one and cutting it to just 10 per cent of normal levels on days two to four.
After four days, the mice were allowed to eat as much as they wanted for 10 days to rebuild their body weight.
Two different strains of mice were used to mimic the two kinds of diabetes.
One group had a gene mutation that prevented their bodies responding properly to the blood sugar regulating hormone insulin, a hall mark condition of Type-2 diabetes known as insulin resistance.
The other mice were treated with a chemical that destroyed the insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas. This simulated Type-1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that wipes out beta cells.
Both types of diabetes were reversed by FMD cycles.
Every day, 280 Australians develop diabetes – that’s one person every five minutes, according to national figures.
It’s estimated around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. Another 500,000 people may have it without knowing.
Prof Longo says the latest findings have the potential to be very important because it’s been shown in mice that diet can be used to “reverse” the symptoms of diabetes.