A fasting diet has the ability to regenerate the pancreas and could potentially reverse diabetes, researchers have found.
A US study, published in scientific journal Cell, tested a modified version of the fasting-mimicking diet – FMD – on both mice and human cells.
The findings showed cycles of the diet could regenerate pancreatic cells to restore insulin in type 1 diabetes patients and could also reverse both type 1 and 2 diabetes in mice.
The study’s co-author, Dr Valter Longo from the University of Southern California, says the findings were “potentially very exciting” because they could lead to cures for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes ::::
Dr Longo also said a FMD could also regenerate other organs because their research had shown similar effects for blood cells.
“They show that extreme diets with very specific compositions can trigger self repair and regeneration processes in the mouse and possibly humans,” Dr Longo said.
Taking into account the challenges and side-effects of fasting in humans, Dr Longo and his team developed a modified low-calorie, low-protein and low-carbohydrate but high-fat four-day FMD.
The diet caused changes in the levels of specific growth factors, glucose, and ketone bodies and reduced the blood glucose on pre-diabetic patients.
Mice receiving the FMD showed improved glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance.
How Does the Fasting Diet Work?
The pancreas helps to control blood sugar levels and restoring the organ can reverse the symptoms of diabetes. The diet can regenerate the pancreas by reprogramming cells into “beta cells” that make insulin.
The study found cycles of the FMD could promote the generation of those insulin-producing cells. This is exciting because pancreatic cells only replicate at an extremely low rate in the adult pancreas and tissue regeneration rarely occurs.
Until now, the only solution to cell depletion and loss of insulin secretion was thought to be stem cell transplantation.
The FMD cycles rescued the mice from late-stage type 2 diabetes because it restoring insulin secretion and reducing insulin resistance, leading to a major improvement in the mice’s survival.
Despite the potentially ground-breaking findings, Dr Longo warned people not to take up a fasting diet without consulting a doctor.
“This should not be done at home with self-made diets and should be done under medical supervision,” he said.
Dr Longo said the next step was to carry out clinical trials on humans, however he encouraged patients to speak to their doctor before trying this at home.
Diabetes in Australia: Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system.
Facts about diabetes
- 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes.
- Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated)
- More than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year
- For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day
- Total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia estimated at $14.6 billion
- Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia.
- There are currently around 72,000 people in Australia with diabetic retinopathy, with approximately 3 in 5 experiencing poor sight.
- Diabetic retinopathy occurs in over 15 per cent of Australians with diabetes.
- The total indirect cost of vision loss associated with diabetic macular oedema in Australia is estimated to be $2.07 billion per annum. This is more than $28,000 per person with diabetic macular oedema.
There are more than 4,400 amputations every year in Australia as a result of diabetes. (Source: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, (2016). Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. [online] Australian Government. Available at: www.safetyandquality.gov.au
In 2005, more than 1000 people with diabetes died as a direct result of foot ulcers and lower limb wounds – around 8 percent of all diabetes related deaths.
Every year there are 10,000 hospital admissions in Australia for diabetes-related foot ulcers in Australia – many of these end with people having a limb, or part of a limb, amputated.
Experts estimate diabetic foot disease costs Australia around $875 million every single year.
Recent new research suggests investing in evidence-based care for Australians with diabetic foot ulcers could save around $2.7 billion over five years. That is around $9,000 per person aged under 75 and $12,000 per person aged over 75
Diabetes is increasing
Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; increasing at a faster rate than other chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. All types of diabetes are increasing in prevalence:
- Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10% of all diabetes and is increasing
- Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85% of all diabetes and is increasing
- Gestational diabetes in pregnancy is increasing
source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
source: BakerIDI | Diabetes Australia