Manage Diabetes and Lose Weight Permanently with Intermittent Fasting
Being overweight is associated with a wide variety of health problems, from common killers including cardiovascular disease and cancer, to chronic conditions like diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, and kidney disease. Excess weight can contribute to sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, pregnancy problems, and dementia. Most people already understand the importance of losing weight, but recognize that it isn’t always easy. A combination of physical activity and reducing calorie consumption is important, but restricting calories alone doesn’t work for everyone over the long term. The majority of people who lose weight by dieting gain it back. Different approaches are required to lose weight and keep it off.
A couple of years ago, I saw a BBC program on aging featuring Dr. Michael Mosley. Mosley interviewed a man who followed the CRON diet (Caloric Restriction with Optimum Nutrition). While the “CRONie” appeared to be similar in size and weight to Dr. Mosley, when they were analyzed at a medical centre, the differences in their body composition were striking. The man following the CRON diet had a body fat percentage of 11.5%, while Dr. Mosley was close to 30% — nearly a third of his weight. Their size was similar, but with a higher percentage of fat located in his abdominal area, Mosley’s risk of cardiovascular and other diseases was significantly higher. The physician analyzing the results indicated that the CRONie’s markers of health were so impressive that it would be all but impossible for him to have a stroke, myocardial infarction, or heart failure. These three diseases are responsible for nearly 40% of the deaths in the UK.
Dr. Mosley next interviewed Dr. Mark Mattson from the National Institute on Aging. Mattson introduced Mosley to the concept of intermittent fasting, where you eat normally for five days, but fast for two non-consecutive days a week. Mattson’s research has found that caloric restriction can increase lifespan by 30%-40% while slowing the processes that contribute to neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. More recently, Mattson has produced research indicating that intermittent fasting builds brain neurons, decreases oxidative stress, decreases insulin levels, reduces inflammation, and lowers blood pressure.
When we eat the traditional three meals a day, the carbohydrates and sugar from our diet are stored in the liver and muscle tissue as glycogen. When available, the body will use this glycogen for energy, converting it into glucose as needed. Fasting shifts the body’s energy source from glycogen to stored fat. As it usually takes 10-12 hours to use up existing glycogen stores, you have to fast for more than 12 hours to start using stored fat for energy (resulting in fat loss).
Often when I tell people about the benefits of fasting, they assume they’ll be hungry all the time. It may seem counter-intuitive, but once you get used to fasting, you notice that you aren’t hungry. When sourcing energy from fat, energy levels actually increase and are sustained throughout the day rather than spiking and crashing.
One of the additional benefits of using fat for energy is that ketone bodies are produced, which help improve brain function. But even more important, fasting turns on “autophagy,” a process where old, damaged cells are destroyed and new cells are created. Fasting allows cells to activate genes that promote regeneration and repair, building brain neurons that help improve cognition and memory, while decreasing the risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes.
Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in 2016 for his autophagy research, where he confirmed that this natural process is switched on during nutrient deprivation, and from exercise. Fasting from 12-36 hours lowers insulin levels and allows glucagon (the hormone opposite to insulin) to eliminate damaged or diseased cells while promoting the generation of growth hormone and new cells. The autophagic process also works to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system.
Recently, a client asked me if I had any recommendations to help his wife, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and already using prescription drugs. Once someone starts taking drugs to control diabetes, it can be a slippery slope with quick progression to more serious issues, as diabetes increases the risk of many other serious conditions. This man had already seen how natural therapies could help him with his own health problems, and the success he had made her open to trying a different approach.
I recommended the book “The Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting” by Dr. Jason Fung, and suggested they consider consulting with him. Dr. Fung operates a clinic in Toronto and is curing some patients of type 2 diabetes through diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes including fasting. Less than a year later, she is now off all drugs, using some dietary supplements, and is feeling better than she has in years. She’s lost weight, has more energy, and there’s a sparkle in her eyes and a ready smile that mirrors how she feels.
Controlling blood sugar levels is critical to achieving optimum health. If you’re even 10 pounds overweight, you’re putting stress on your heart and joints that can contribute to cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and insulin resistance. I believe that the most successful approach to managing blood sugar levels and weight loss is through fasting, exercise, and a predominantly plant-based diet. For those looking for a little additional help to curb appetite, I recommend the clinically-proven probiotic B. lactis, as well as glucomannan, a dietary fibre that reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin and increases satiety. I encourage everyone to incorporate fasting into their routine and experience the long-lasting health benefits.