Intermittent fasting could be a beneficial option for lowering HbA1c in people with type 2 diabetes, scientists report.
Fasting was compared to continuous calorie restriction in a new Australian study, and researchers are buoyant fasting could return health benefits.
Improved HbA1c was the standout benefit, with a two-day per week fast shown to be comparable to a diet where participants restricted their calorie intake. Additionally, there were similar weight reductions between groups.
A total of 137 adults with type 2 diabetes were recruited for the study. Participants were then randomly assigned to either an intermittent calorie restriction diet consisting of 500-600 kcal per day for two non-consecutive days per week and increased intake for five days, or continuous calorie restriction consisting of 1,200-1,500 calories per day for 12 months.
The University of South Australia researchers primarily analysed HbA1c, with weight loss a secondary outcome. Medications that could cause hypoglycemia were lowered at the beginning of the study.
The results showed that the intermittent fasting method was as effective as continuous calorie restriction in reducing HbA1c. This not only provides reassurance that intermittent fasting is effective for reducing HbA1c in a safe manner, but suggests that intermittent fasting may represent an effective alternative to daily calorie restriction.
There were similar differences for blood sugar levels, total medication effect score and step count at the study’s end. No differences were observed for low or high blood sugar within the first two weeks, which affected 35% of participants using sulphonylurea and/or insulin.
The researchers stressed that because only people with diabetes who had good blood sugar control were involved, adjustments for medication could interfere with interpretations of HbA1c. Another limitation was that participants had regular access with a dietitian than would be expected outside of a clinical setting.
The researchers concluded: “Intermittent energy restriction is a useful strategy for weight loss in type 2 diabetes and may be superior to continuous energy restriction. However, careful medication management is required to avoid hypoglycemia.”
The findings appear online in the journal JAMA Network.

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