Following a simple fasting diet could help those living with diabetes, according to a recent study.
Brief periods of fasting has been shown to regenerate the pancreas, by “rebooting” cells that are unable to produce insulin – the hormone that helps control blood sugar levels.
According to the NHS, diabetes is caused when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level, or the body is unable to use the insulin that is produced.
There are 3.9 million people currently living with diabetes in the UK and by 2025 it is estimated that five million people will suffer from the condition – 90% of whom will have Type 2 diabetes.
The “fasting-mimicking” diet, which was tested on mice, provided an “exciting” alternative approach to treating the condition.
The diet involves five days of fasting on a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, high-unsaturated fat diet, then returning to a normal diet.
“Our conclusion is that by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back―by starving them and then feeding them again―the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that’s no longer functioning,” explained lead author Dr Valter Longo, from the University of Southern California.
The mouse experiments were showed to benefit both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
“Medically, these findings have the potential to be very important because we’ve shown – at least in mouse models – that you can use diet to reverse the symptoms of diabetes,” Dr Longo added.
“Scientifically, the findings are perhaps even more important because we’ve shown that you can use diet to reprogram cells without having to make any genetic alterations.”
Authors say that much more research is required before the findings can be validated in humans, but Longo says these clinical trials are already being planned.
Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said, according to the BBC: “This is potentially very exciting news, but we need to see if the results hold true in humans before we’ll know more about what it means for people with diabetes.
“People with type-1 and type-2 diabetes would benefit immensely from treatments that can repair or regenerate insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.”
The study was published in the journal Cell.