Is It Better To Diet Or To Fast Intermittently?

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Two years ago I told you about a medical study that showed fasting for 13 hours (or more) overnight decreased breast cancer recurrence by more than one-third, which was awesome news.

In that study, researchers found that not only did cancer recurrence rates drop, but also the longer the participants fasted at night, the lower their HbA1C levels fell as well.

 

 

This begs the question — if fasting at night helps to lower HgA1C levels, could intermittent fasting help treat patients with Type 2 Diabetes?

 

To answer this question, researchers conducted a new study specifically looking specifically at diabetic patients.

They enrolled 137 adults to be randomly assigned to either a program of intermittent fasting two days a week or to a continuous calorie restriction diet.  Their weight, caloric intake, HbA1C levels, lipid profile and more were followed for an entire year.

The results of this study were published in the JAMA Network on July 20, 2018.

 

The Study:

 

  • Adults with Type 2 Diabetes were assigned to either fast two days a week or to follow a continuous calorie restricted diet.
    • Fasting group:  Two days a week caloric intake was restricted to 500 – 600 calories a day, and eating their normal diet the other five days a week.
    • Diet group:  Calorie intake was restricted to 1200 – 1500 kcal/day every single day.
  • Participants were followed for an entire year, and monitored to see what changes these two diet plans made to their weight, body mass and fat composition, HbA1C levels, lipid levels and more over the long term.

 

The Results:

 

  • Both groups had an equivalent reduction in HbA1C levels over the course of one year — each enjoying a drop of about 0.4% in their HbA1C levels.
  • Both groups required less oral hypoglycemic drugs over the course of the year, and the intermittent fasting group was able to use significantly lower insulin amounts than the daily dieting group.
  • Both groups had a significant weight loss: participants who dieted every day lost an average of 11 pounds during the study and the group who intermittently fasted lost an average of 15 pounds during the study.
  • Both groups had an equivalent decrease in body fat.
  • Both groups has similar rates of glycemic events during the study.
  • Both groups had equivalently lowered serum lipid levels.
  • Both groups had a similar compliance rate, with similar drop out rates.

 

What’s the bottom line?

 

If you find dieting difficult, but you want to lose weight or to lower your HbA1C levels… fasting two days a week and eating normally the other five days a week is every bit as good as dieting every single day, and may even result in a bigger weight loss!

 

 

So that means, it’s your personal preference in what you can stick with more easily:

If it’s easier for you to fast twice a week and eat your normal food intake the other 5 days a week — do that!

If it’s easier for you to maintain a daily calorie restriction every single day to lose weight — do that!

 

I find it’s easier to fast every few days than it is to worry about restricting my calorie intake every single day.

So if you are struggling with a diet and have not yet tried picking two days a week to fast, give this a try and know that you will enjoy the same results as if you had dieted every single day… or perhaps even better results!  Woot!

As a physician I feel this has major implications in relieving the anxiety that is associated with calorie restriction and strict diets.  I also feel that this is a wonderful way to maintain your ideal body weight, boost metabolism and prevent metabolic syndrome, naturally help treat diabetes Type 2, and probably has applications to other diseases such as PCOS, hypothyroid, and other hormone and/or weight related diseases.

 

Some guidelines for a two-day-a-week fasting diet (sometimes called a 5:2 diet):

 

  • You can pick any two days to do the fast, as long as they are not consecutive (i.e. don’t fast for two days in a row)
  • On fasting days, stick primarily with drinking water and one or two small meals that total 500 -600 calories.
  • Most people start the day with a small meal, stay well hydrated all day long, and have a small dinner.
  • An alternative to this is to stay well hydrated all day long, drinking a few small fresh pressed juices as well, and end the day with a small dinner.
  • If you are currently taking medication to treat diabetes, such as insulin or oral hypoglycemic prescriptions, consult with your physician to have these medications adjusted to minimize glycemic events.

 

 

 

Some foods that can fit easily into a 500 – 600 calorie fast day:

  • water and more water!
  • black coffee
  • herbal tea
  • yogurt and berries
  • fresh pressed juices
  • soups and soup broth
  • salads with oil and vinegar dressing
  • steamed veggies
  • hard boiled egg
  • small portion of fish
  • almonds, cashews or pistachios
  • a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • oatmeal

 

 

 

Now you guys already know that I have a nice broad definition of what defines a healthy weight.

 

I believe you can truly be healthy at almost any weight and the only weight that I would consider treating medically is BMI’s that are over 35.

So for most of you who are healthy but just concerned about a few pounds, I would comfort you and remind you that not only is being overweight healthier than being underweight, medical studies have shown that it actually gives you a survival advantage.  

So today’s medical literature review isn’t so much about losing weight as it is about finding an easier, simplified, more holistic way to keep HgA1C levels down and to decrease the stress associated with the traditional, strict diets that conventional physicians might insist on.

 

Today’s medical study shows… you have more flexible options that are every bit as good as being on a strict daily diet.  This is more about relaxing into what serves you more than fitting into a particular BMI category.

 

For more ideas on maintaining a healthy weight, you might enjoy these blog posts I’ve written for you:

 

 

To your innately resilient health!

xoxoxo, Laura