You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting: an eating pattern in which periods of eating are alternated with periods of not eating or reducing calorie intake. We explain exactly what intermittent fasting is and what you should take into account if you have type 2 diabetes and want to eat intermittent fasting.
Research on intermittent fasting
You may want to try intermittent fasting to lower your blood sugar. Be aware that not much research has been done into the effects of intermittent fasting in type 2 diabetes.
Studies do show that intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. And weight loss often makes you more sensitive to insulin, which lowers your glucose levels.
So yes, this way of eating could help you. In the long term, however, intermittent fasting does not seem better than, for example, a diet in which you eat fewer calories to lose weight. The long-term health effects are also unknown.
What is intermittent fasting?
With intermittent fasting you don’t eat less, but the time in which you eat does decrease. For example, you do not eat for 8 to 12 hours, so you do not consume carbohydrates (glucose) and proteins. During this period, your body will break down fat for energy. Your body also has time to recover.
You can fast in several ways. For example, you can not eat for a number of hours per day (Time Restricted Feeding), for example 14 hours without food and 10 hours or 16 hours and 8 hours. Either you don’t eat for two days and eat on the other five (Periodic Fasting) or you eat every other day (Alternate Day Fasting).
The most favorable outcomes (including glucose values) are seen with Early Time Restricted Feeding, i.e. if you eat in the morning to noon, for example between 8:00 and 18:00. Starting with breakfast and ending with a light evening meal. Skipping breakfast and starting to eat later and finishing later seems to be less beneficial for glucose levels.
Points of attention for intermittent fasting
If you want to try intermittent fasting, keep the following points in mind.
Intermittent fasting can lead to low blood sugar
Intermittent fasting can lead to hypoglycaemia (too low blood glucose). You don’t get any food for a long time. Especially if you take medication to lower the glucose level in your blood. So always consult with your practitioner, because it may be necessary to adjust your medication.
Make sure you have the right nutrients in your diet
A second point of attention concerns the completeness or quality of your diet. You still need enough nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and proteins (especially when you are older). You have to try to get all of these in that limited time to avoid shortages.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep up
Intermittent fasting, like other diets, can also be difficult to maintain in the long term. Of course, the social aspect also plays an important role here. If you can never eat together with your family or have to skip dinners with friends, the fun is quickly over. This of course depends on the approach you choose. An approach where you eat between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM may suit your situation better than one where you don’t eat every other day.
Another reason that can make it difficult to sustain is a feeling of hunger. The danger of hunger is that you will ‘overeat’ or get an appetite for unhealthy things later on. This is not always desirable.
Can you do intermittent fasting with type 2 diabetes?
In conclusion, intermittent fasting can be a way to lose weight and improve your glucose levels. The long-term effects of this and whether it is safe for everyone still needs further research.
If you still want to try it, take the above points into account in your decision and discuss it – if desired – with your treating physician or seek guidance.
Does intermittent fasting sound like nothing to you? Then you can of course start with a maximum of 3 meals a day without snacks. Especially the highly processed snacks such as bars and cakes cause a strongly fluctuating blood sugar level. This one doesn’t get time to sink if you keep eating.
So make sure that your main meals are sufficiently satiating and, for example, have some snack vegetables, (vegetable) cottage cheese or a handful of nuts if you do get hungry in between.