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Type 2 diabetes is affecting more and more lives each year. Intermittent fasting may help prevent the disese by controlling known risk factor for it. And new ways of fasting have made it much more appealing - you can even eat on your fast days!

Not only could fasting help us to live longer and lose weight but it may be preventive against diseases such as cancer and diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is unfortunately increasing in the developed world at an epidemic rate.  It is a complex disease affecting many parts of the body and can lead to serious illness.  

Type 2 diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic loss of limbs, blindness and kidney disease.
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Not to mention heart attacks and stroke.  It has also even been associated with memory loss and dementia. Poor diet high in sugar and carbohydrates leading to obesity, are known to be major causes of diabetes.

There is evidence that as well as preventing type 2 diabetes, intermittent fasting may also help people with diabetes gain more control over their disease.

How diabetes develops

We naturally produce a hormone called insulin from an organ called the pancreas.  When we eat we produce more insulin, especially in response to sugary or high-carbohydrate foods.  This is because insulin is necessary for sugar in the blood to get into our cells, where it is needed to produce energy.  But insulin has a lot of other effects too.  It stores excess glucose (sugar) as glycogen (a starchy substance) in our muscles – which can readily be converted back to glucose by another hormone whenever we need it.

Insulin also prevents the breakdown of fat to use as energy, and causes fat cells to take up glucose and store it as fat.  In other words the more food - especially sugary food - we eat, the more insulin we produce, and the fatter we become. 

But it gets worse too as after a while the body’s cells become so used to being awash with insulin all the time that they stop responding to it. 

This means that glucose cannot get into cells and so it builds up in the blood and starts to wreak havoc all over the body. This is a state known as insulin resistance.

If not corrected it will almost inevitably lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, and the problems that go with that disease.

Downward spiral

In an attempt to overcome insulin resistance, the pancreas pours out increasing amounts of insulin, which has less and less effect. In the end the pancreas is completely exhausted and stops producing insulin altogether. Eventually the cells which make it will wither away and lose the ability to produce insulin.  At this stage a person with type 2 diabetes would then become dependent on daily injections of insulin. (Until this point their diabetes would be managed by diet and exercise, with or without tablets).

Continue reading after recommendations

  • The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer. 2013. Published by Short Books. ISBN 978-1-78072-167-5
  • Varady KA and Hellerstein MK. Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention, a review of human and animal trials. Am J Nutr, 2007. 86(1). 7-13

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