There is good news for people suffering from diabetes. A team of scientists from University of Southern California has found that periodic cycles of fasting in mice can reverse the effects of diabetes.
Fasting prompts reprograming of pancreatic cells and thereby insulin production is restored.
This exciting study was led by Valter Longo who is the director of Longevity Institute at USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
Signifying the health benefits of a periodic diet for diabetic patients, the results of this study were also recently published in the online journal, Cell.
Over years, diabetes has emerged as a serious global health problem which then leads to health deterioration in several ways. People who receive a diagnosis for diabetes develop long-term health conditions if they fail to maintain optimal blood glucose levels. Prominently, these health conditions include hypertension, kidney problems, eye problems such as retinopathy or blindness, risk of strokes, heart diseases and limb amputation.
In the US alone, 29.1 million people suffer from diabetes and are required to take diabetes management interventions to keep normal blood glucose levels.
The threat doesn’t end here but it alleviates for American population, as CDC estimates that 86 million Americans are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The disease burden continues to mount and reach high expenditures.
Annually, the direct and indirect (involving diabetes.-triggered health problems) cost of diabetes management for Americans exceeds $245 billion. Therefore, it is of an utmost priority to the medical practitioners and researchers to find a cost effective diabetes management intervention for people.
Future of Diabetes Management: Diet-Based Interventions
In this context, this very study is likely to prove a crucial step in assuring a healthier future for diabetic patients.
In this study, the researchers experimented with mice model to closely examine the effects of fasting-mimicking diet on insulin secretion and glucose regulation.
By far, we are aware of the root cause behind the onset of diabetes. As the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas are damaged, the insulin production is either reduced to low levels or stopped, which in turn leads to higher than normal blood glucose levels. With reduced insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance in the body increases, causing a chronic condition of diabetes.
In this study, the mice were induced with both, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes and then the effect of alternating diet routine on the production of insulin was monitored.
For the induction of type 1 diabetes, high dose of drug named streptozotocin was administered which killed insulin-producing beta cells.
On the other hand, mice with type 2 diabetes manifested insulin resistance and an eventual loss of insulin production in the pancreas. This type 2 diabetes symptom manifestation was caused by point mutation in leptin receptor gene (Lepr gene). This change in the gene function led to insulin resistance in early diabetes stage and paralyzed Beta cell function in later diabetes stage.
By the time this research ended, it was observed that diabetes was reversed in both types of diabetes. The hampered insulin production was revived and insulin producing cells were regenerated. Insulin resistance was significantly reduced and normal glucose levels were observed.
This 60-day fast-mimicking diet was carried out for 4 days in a week in 12-week-old mice, which governed on the principle of starvation and replenishing energy reserves of the body.
This diet cycle led towards replenishing insulin production by altering regulating gene expressions. It was found that those genes were activated in the pancreatic cells which are only active in the developing pancreas of a fetal mouse. When these genes were activated in adult mice, the hampered insulin production was revived causing reversal of diabetes.
Primarily, the switching on of the gene expression of Sox17, Pdx-1 and Ngn3 genes led towards production of neurogenin-3 (Ngn3) protein which regenerated healthy insulin producing pancreatic cells in the mice.
To further analyze the validity of this experiment for human subjects, the researchers went on to take cell cultures from type 1 diabetes patients and scrutinized the impact of fasting in these pancreatic cells.
Interestingly, a similar effect was reflected in these human pancreatic cells and the production of neurgenin-3 was triggered by fasting in these cells. This validated the significance of these results for the possible treatment intervention for diabetes patients.
Researchers say that the diet plan used in the study resembled a human diet that includes a 5-day diet comprising of high unsaturated fats but low volumes of proteins, carbohydrates and total calories.
They went on to say that this diet contains 800 to 1,000 calories per day for humans, enriched with vegetables, fruits, soups and nuts. In a month’s time, this diet plan has to be followed for five days which is followed by 25 days of regular eating routine.
With the successful results in the preliminary stage, the researchers are hopeful that large human clinical trials can be initiated to treat diabetes.
In the press release from the University of Southern California, Logo remarked that fast-mimicking diet is a potential treatment for diabetes. In his concluding remarks he added, “Hopefully, people with diabetes could one day be treated with an FDA-approved fasting-mimicking diet for a few days each month and gain control over their insulin production and blood sugar”.