Eating Only in Daytime Helps With Type 2 Diabetes


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Experts say limiting our eating to daylight hours can help with type 2 diabetes. Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images
  • Researchers say restricting eating to a 10-hour window during daytime hours can help people with type 2 diabetes.
  • They said this diet plan adheres to the body’s natural rhythms and can help with blood-sugar levels.
  • Experts say the plan is beneficial for most people with type 2 diabetes, but people with eating disorders, pregnant women, people with type 1 diabetes, and children should speak with a doctor before adopting it.
  • They add that people should choose a diet plan that they can manage over a long period of time.

Restricting eating to a 10-hour window during the daytime could have beneficial health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.

That’s according to research published today that reports that a time-restricted eating (TRE) protocol can result in improvements to metabolic health in adults with type 2 diabetes, including a decrease in 24-hour glucose levels.

“A daytime 10-hour TRE regimen for three weeks decreases glucose levels and prolongs the time spent in the normal blood sugar range in adults with type 2 diabetes as compared with spreading daily food intake over at least 14 hours. These data highlight the potential benefit of TRE in type 2 diabetes,” the study authors wrote.

Previous research has indicated that time-restricted eating can have positive metabolic effects in people with obesity or who are overweight. Researchers said restricting eating to a window of less than 12 hours can decrease blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase fat burning.

The authors of the new study note that in many Western countries, food is available 24 hours a day and a tendency to spread eating out over a long period of time can be problematic.

“In Western society, most people tend to spread their daily food intake over a minimum of 14 hours likely resulting in the absence of a true, nocturnal fasted state. “Restricting food intake to a predefined time window (typically less than 12 hours)… restores the cycle of daytime eating and prolonged fasting during the evening and night,” the study authors wrote.

Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, a senior clinical dietitian at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and an assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, says eating irregularly can put pressure on the body.

“Our bodies have a circadian rhythm. Like the Earth has a daily rhythm, so do our bodies. If we don’t align our eating habits with the best/healthiest rhythms, it can increase our risk for chronic diseases and inflammation,” Hunnes told Healthline.

“When we have food available 24/7, much of it highly processed, it is stressful on our bodies, and it is not following the healthy circadian rhythms/homeostasis our bodies like to be in,” she added. “So, when we eat out of rhythm, it’s highly stressful, and decreases cardiometabolic health, and can affect our hormone response (including insulin) and worse health outcomes, especially for people with type 2 diabetes.”

Following a time-restricted eating protocol can counteract this negative impact of eating throughout the day by limiting the timing of food intake and prolonging the period of fasting in the evening and at night.

Dr. Marilyn Tan, a clinical associate professor of medicine in endocrinology, gerontology, and metabolism at Stanford University in California, says a time-restricted eating protocol is beneficial for many people with type 2 diabetes. However, those with type 2 diabetes who take insulin should speak with their doctor first.

“For patients who are on diabetes medications that do not carry a risk of hypoglycemia, it’s fine to do intermittent fasting,” Tan told Healthline. “However, if a patient is on insulin, long-acting insulin or insulin with meals, or both, it’s important to discuss with your doctor because, for example, when you don’t eat usually we don’t want you to take the mealtime insulin. Or if you’re not eating potentially you may need less long-acting insulin.”

Typically, when a person isn’t eating the body uses up glycogen to fuel itself.

Glycogen is a form of stored carbohydrate found in the liver and also stored in muscles. When the body uses up the glycogen, it will then move on to free fatty acids as the next form of fuel.

This in turn produces ketones, which may reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and ultimately, improve glucose levels.

“The goal of intermittent fasting for those with diabetes is to fuel the body’s energy by burning fat stores and to lose extra weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower blood sugar levels. The study results are consistent with the goals of intermittent fasting,” Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, the chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida, told Healthline.

“For the most part, intermittent fasting is safe. It is not appropriate for people with type I diabetes, a history of eating disorders, pregnant women, or children under 18,” she noted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that when it comes to dieting, it’s important to find a plan that can be followed for life.

A plan that is focused on healthy eating and is also something that is sustainable is a good place to start.

The CDC has 12 tips for healthy eating. They include anticipating times of the day when snacking might be tempting, such as after a hard work day.

Tan says her clients have found time-restricted eating to be one of the easiest diet plans to follow, particularly for those who are busy.

“A lot of my patients find this actually to be one of the most sustainable diets because you’re not so much focused on the food content, per se, as you are just the timing,” she explained. “And actually, for busy people time-restricted feeding kind of works out better… you don’t have to worry about your meals throughout the day. If you have this limited window to eat, a lot of patients actually find it much simpler and much more sustainable compared to a lot of very specific diets.”

“You don’t have to focus so much on the macronutrient breakdown of the diet,” Tan added. “Whereas with certain diets, like a ketogenic diet, it may be very effective in the short term to lose a large amount of weight, it’s very difficult to sustain that type of diet long term. Whereas with time-restricted eating really, you’re just shifting the timing of your eating. I don’t see any major concerns for long-term safety… as long as you discuss your medication timing and dosing with your provider before you embark on a diet.”


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