Starving your way out of diabetes

A study published in a prestigious journal, Cell, has found that intermittent starvation can remodel pancreatic cells and effectivelya reverse diabetes.   In this study, diabetic mice were subjected to ‘fasting mimicking diet’ (FMD) that was severely calorie restricted, low in carbohydrate and protein and relatively high in fat. After 5 days of FMD, mice were re-fed for 25 days. This cycle triggered reprogramming of gene expression in pancreatic cells. Basically, genes that pancreatic cells had used very early in their development were re-activated. It is like they remembered what a young and healthy cell should be doing - and started behaving that way. As a result, both mice suffering from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes had their pancreatic function restored.   The researchers repeated this experiment in vitro, with human pancreatic cells that were modelling Type 1 diabetes. Amazingly, the cells responded by re-activating long forgotten genes and regenerating.   In case you are wondering about real, live humans, Dr Longo at the University of Southern California conducted a study mirroring a fasting regimen used in the mouse study. Here, healthy human subjects are restricted to 500 calories per day, for five days and then allowed to eat their normal diet for 25 days. Calorie restricted diet was essentially a vegan diet consisting of plant-based soups, kale chips, a nutty bar, a herbal tea and an energy drink. Dr Longo and his team found that the fasting-mimicking diet reduced risks for cancer, diabetes and heart disease in participants who followed this protocol. The team now hope to conduct a larger study on the use of the fasting-mimicking diet to treat diabetes patients.   Before anyone tries to replicate this experiment at home, please remember that these studies are done under strictly controlled conditions and under close medical supervision. Do not try to do this on your own.

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