A dietary regimen that mimics fasting coudl hold the key to regenerating the pancreas and reversing diabetes. [Photo: Bigstock]

Fasting diet could reverse diabetes and repair the pancreas

27 February, 2017

Natural Health News — New research suggests is may be possible to reverse symptoms of diabetes and restore pancreatic function by using a very low calorie diet that mimics fasting.

The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) is a very low-calorie, low-protein and low-carbohydrate, and higher-fat regimen intended to be followed for a few days each month. Developed by the Longevity Institute at USC Davis School of Gerontology, study shows that the diet triggers a death-and-life process for cells that appears critical for the body’s repair.

The pancreas is an organ that uses specialised cells known as beta cells to produce the hormone insulin, which the body uses to break down sugars in the blood (glucose).

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas stops producing insulin. In type 2 diabetes either not enough insulin is produced or cells in the body fail to respond to insulin (insulin resistance).

For the study, published in the journal Cell, mice were fed for four days on the FMD, receiving half their normal daily calorie intake on day one, followed by three days of 10% of their normal calorie intake.

What you need to know

» A dietary regimen, developed by scientists in California could become an important treatment for diabetes.

» The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) is a very low-calorie, low-protein and low-carbohydrate, and higher-fat regimen intended to be followed for a few days each month.

» Previous research has suggested it could help in the fight of major disease like heart disease and cancer. This new study in mice has shown that the diet regenerated the pancreas and reversed type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Regenerating the pancreas

In the latest study, mice were put into the artificial fasting mode for four days a week over a period of several months. The researchers then examined the pancreas.

Results showed that the diet reversed symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the mice. In particular they found that the diet regenerated beta cells in the pancreas; damaged cells were replaced by working ones.

“By pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back… the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming,” says the head of the research team, Valter Longo.

The team also experimented on pancreatic cell cultures from human donors with type 1 diabetes. Here too, simulated fasting produced more insulin and more of the Ngn3 protein required for normal pancreatic function.

This is an indication that this dietary solution could work in humans too.

Promising research

In humans, the fasting-mimicking diet has been credited with helping people lose weight more effectively and slow ageing. Previous studies have also linked it to reducing risk factors for major diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Most recently the diet been credited with reducing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, so it’s earning quite a reputation among scientists. In each case starving the body seems to reset the production of healthy cells.

While diabetics should not undertake this diet without medical advice and careful supervision the researchers believe it may be possible to adapt the fasting-mimicking diet to help treat diabetes and restore pancreatic function, all without relying on medication.

“Scientifically, the findings are perhaps even more important because we’ve shown that you can use diet to reprogram cells without having to make any genetic alterations,” says Longo.