World Diabetes Day: Can Intermittent Fasting Help Control Diabetes?
Literature and online forums are rife with debates regarding the role of the human body and its optimum utility though one thing is for certain, it wasn’t designed to live a sedentary life spent mostly in front of various screens.
Modern economy has brought about an irreversible change in the lifestyle and habits among us humans.
The pace of our natural evolution has not been able to keep pace with changes in dietary and lifestyle habits.
This maladjustment has brought about many chronic diseases, one of the most significant being diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood.
Moreover, diabetes does not have a cure but it has to be constantly managed through treatment.
On this World Diabetes Day, this article explores the current situation in India and seeks the insights of an expert on how we can use fasting and nutrition to manage diabetes.
In India, more than 77 million adults are living with diabetes. Researchers predict that this will increase to 134 million by 2045..
Overall, females have a higher risk of developing diabetes than males, but as both groups get older, this risk decreases.
Although diabetes figures are high, researchers estimate that 57 percent of cases remain undiagnosed.
This is particularly concerning, as the risk of serious complications increases when people do not take medication to control their blood sugar.
In fact, the government of India has also considered this issue with grave seriousness and it is one of the non-communicable diseases mandatorily screened and treated under the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
Treatment for diabetes has evolved with time. However, traditional mediation as well as insulin therapy can take a heavy toll on a patient suffering from diabetes.
Intermittent Fasting and Mindful Eating
In recent years, scientists have undertaken research to identify if intermittent fasting and lasting nutritional change can help manage the disease better.
While studies are encouraging, such treatments haven’t been adopted universally yet.
Speaking on the effectiveness of intermittent fasting to manage diabetes, Dr. Debabrata Mitra, MBBS, DTM&H, MD, FIACM, a leading cardiologist and diabetologist, based out of Calcutta explains that, “Intermittent fasting is only relevant in case of Type 2 diabetes.”
"Intermittent fasting for 16 hours at a stretch or 2 days a week, which may help a diabetic patient by improving blood sugar insulin resistance and weight loss provided we can closely monitor blood sugar level avoiding hypo or hyperglycemia."Dr. Debabrata Mitra, MBBS, DTM&H, MD, FIACM, a leading cardiologist and diabetologist.
"Nutritional lifestyle management is a rather newer concept in case of type 2 diabetes management. You have to make sure you are consuming nutrients, your body needs protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins and minerals - all need to be part of your diet," he explains.
"Then take things a step further, reduce your intake of sweets and unhealthy fats. Make simple food serves to satisfy 'craving' and start cooking more of your meals at home so that you know what's going in them," he adds.
Fasting and nutrition have been researched extensively to understand if they play a causal role in relation to major lifestyle based non communicable diseases.
While research is promising, it is still at a nascent stage.
Similar to traditional means of managing diabetes, it is very important to stick to a regime with discipline and consistency.
As mentioned by Dr. Mitra, a diabetes patient can incorporate lifestyle changes such as intermittent fasting and mindful nutrition. However, both practices do have their own sets of dangers.
Approach with Caution
In case of intermittent fasting, it is important to constantly monitor the sugar levels. While there is a plethora of fad and experimental diets available online, nutritional management needs to be dealt with utmost care.
The underlying danger with such diets masquerading as nutritional management is that the body can be deprived of essential nutrients.
For example, keto can be effective for weight loss and managing diabetes but by design, it eliminates food groups which are high in carbs. This leads to an inadvertent elimination of some essential vitamins and minerals.
Hence, it is very important to consult an expert or experts and discuss if these tools would be effective on a case-to-case basis.
My suggestion would be to find an open minded doctor who can patiently describe the pros, cons and fine print associated with both fasting and nutritional management.
(The author is a lawyer turned business intelligence consultant turned chef. He also designs weekly and monthly meal plans for clients and conducts baking and cooking workshops.)
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