Fasting against diabetes

Credit: sriram bala

Diabetes is a disease typically associated with old age, especially when speaking of type 2, characterized for insulin resistance, and associated with obesity and therefore, more likely to occur in old age.

A recent couple of papers published in Cell1 and Science Translational Medicine 2 point to the healing potential of a fasting-mimicking diet for resetting pancreatic insulin producing cells, which are rendered inactive in type 1 diabetes and at latest stages in type 2 diabetes. The cycling diet in mice involved 4 days of fasting-like diet a week. Mice on this diet regained healthy insulin production, reduced insulin resistance and demonstrated more stable levels of blood glucose, thus reverting the symptoms of the disease.

Further experiments showed that these diet cycles turned gene expression in pancreatic cells to developmental stages, thus regenerating healthy insulin-producing beta cells. Since in vitro experiments of fasting on human pancreatic cells also showed the same pattern of “rejuvenated” gene expression, this simple intervention holds great potential to treat humans. Moreover, they showed that a fasting-mimicking diet reduced risks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases in human study participants who followed the special diet for five days each month over three-months, thus calling for regulation and implementation of such nutritional interventions for patients with diabetes.

Once again we see that adopting fasting diets can lead to health improvements, and even though in these studies no effects on longevity were tested, it is to be expected that relieving the effects of diabetes and its related diseases would lead to an extended lifespan and improved healthspan.


  1. Cheng et al. Fasting-mimicking diet promotes Ngn3-driven β-cell regeneration to reverse diabetes. Cell, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.040
  2. Wei et al. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Sci Transl Med. 2017 Feb 15;9(377). doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700.

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