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.
According to a study released today, persons with type 2 diabetes who follow a time-restricted eating (TRE) strategy can see improvements in their metabolic health, including a drop in their 24-hour glucose levels.
In comparison to extending daily food intake over at least 14 hours, a midday 10-hour TRE routine for three weeks lowers glucose levels and lengthens the time spent in the normal blood sugar range in persons with type 2 diabetes. These findings, according to the study’s authors, demonstrate the potential value of TRE in type 2 diabetes.
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 fewer than 12 hours can decrease blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase fat burning.
“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, Ph.D., 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 too 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 said. “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.
“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, Ph.D., RDN, the chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida. “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.
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.