Exciting Research Suggests a Fasting Diet Could Regenerate the Pancreas
According to US researchers, a particular type of fasting diet can trigger the pancreas to regenerate itself. This organ helps control the blood sugar levels, and animal experiments showed that restoring its function improves the diabetes symptoms successfully.
The journal Cell published the study which claims the fasting diet revives the body.
Even though this is a mice study, the findings are exciting as they might lead to a potential new treatment for diabetes. Still, we shouldn’t try this without consulting our doctor.
Researchers put the animals on a variety of the “fasting-mimicking diet.”
The diet is like the human variety when we have to consume low-protein, low-calorie, low-carb but high unsaturated fat foods for five days.
It’s similar to a vegan diet with soups and nuts, with 800-1,100 calories daily.
After these five days, there are 25 days to eat what we want. Basically, there are periods of feast and famine.
Past study has suggested that it can even slow down the aging process.
The experiments conducted on animals showed that this diet regenerates the beta cells in the pancreas. This type of cells detect the levels of sugar in the blood, and when too high, they release the hormone insulin.
Coming from the University of Southern California, Dr. Valter Longo explains the experiment in more details. Starving the mice brings them to an extreme state while feeding them brings them back to normal.
These drastic changes trigger the pancreas cells to use so-called developmental reprogramming which regenerates the area of the pancreas that’s no longer functioning.
The mice experiments showed positive results in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
When the immune system starts to destroy beta cells in the pancreas, it leads to the development of type 1 diabetes. On the other hand, type 2 develops when the body can’t respond to insulin properly, as well as due to lifestyle.
Testing on human tissue samples from patients with type 1 showed similar effects.
Although the findings that a diet can reverse the symptoms are only shown in animal models, they are still extremely important. Dr. Longo says they mean that a diet is able to reprogramme cells without needing to make any genetic changes.
What’s It Like?
Peter Bowes is a BBC reporter who agreed to participate in Dr. Longo’s separate trial.
He lost 4.4-8.8lbs (2kg – 4kg) during each 5-day fasting cycle. Bowes was eating about a ¼ of an average diet. However, after 25 days of normal eating, he returned to almost the weight he had before the first cycle. Still, not all effects of the diet disappeared so fast.
His hormone IGF-1 which is connected to some types of cancer was reduced as well as his blood pressure.
As he says, he was glad to have something to eat even though the meals during the 5-day fasting were small and far from gourmet cooking.
The diet also showed positive effects on the blood sugar levels of some people in separate trials.
Nevertheless, Dr. Longo reported that we shouldn’t try the diet immediately at home, as it’s much more complicated than we think.
Without proper medical guidance, we might even get some health problems.
The research communications manager at Diabetes UK, Dr. Emily Burns, shares the excitement of the experiment, saying that there’s still much work to do before we know its exact effects on this disease in people.
A treatment which could regenerate or repair the pancreas cells which produce insulin would definitely benefit people affected by this chronic condition.
Even though Dr. Longo has established a company for fasting-mimicking diet products, they were not part of the experiments. Also, the profit from the business goes to charity.