An intermittent, time restricted fasting diet is more effective for people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to a reduced calorie diet, according to a new study.

The Australian study compared the two types of diets as part of the drive to see how the 60% of preventable type 2 diabetes cases could be avoided.

Senior author Professor Leonie Heilbronn, from the University of Adelaide, said: “Following a time restricted, intermittent fasting diet could help lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

“People who fasted for three days during the week, only eating between 8am and 12pm on those days, showed a greater tolerance to glucose after 6 months than those on a daily, low-calorie diet.

“Participants who followed the intermittent fasting diet were more sensitive to insulin and also experienced a greater reduction in blood lipids than those on the low-calorie diet.”

More than 200 participants took part in the 18-month study, with both the fasting and low-calorie diet groups seeing similar weight loss results.

First author and PhD student Xiao Tong Teong said: “This is the largest study in the world to date and the first powered to assess how the body processes and uses glucose after eating a meal, which is a better indicator of diabetes risk than a fasting test.

“The results of this study add to the growing body of evidence to indicate that meal timing and fasting advice extends the health benefits of a restricted calorie diet, independently from weight loss, and this may be influential in clinical practice.”

The study team said more research needs to be carried out to assess if a longer eating window would bring the same results, as it would make this type of diet more sustainable in the longer term.

Read the full study in Nature Medicine.

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