Fasting reduces cholesterol levels in prediabetic people over extended period of time

June 14, 2014

For prediabetics, many interventions focus on lifestyle changes and weight loss, but new research on periodic fasting has identified a biological process in the body that converts bad cholesterol in fat cells to energy, thus combating diabetes risk factors.

Researchers at the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, noticed that after 10 to 12 hours of time fasting, the body starts scavenging for other sources of energy throughout the body to sustain itself. The body pulls LDL (bad) cholesterol from the and uses it as energy.

"Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention," says Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and lead researcher on the study. "Though we've studied fasting and it's health benefits for years, we didn't know why fasting could provide the health benefits we observed related to the risk of diabetes."

Researchers will present results of the study at the 2014 American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Francisco on Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Prediabetes means the amount of glucose, also called sugar, in the blood is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

Prior research done by Dr. Horne and his team in 2011 focused on healthy people during one day of fasting and showed that routine, water-only fasting was associated with lower glucose levels and weight loss.

"When we studied the effects of fasting in apparently healthy people, cholesterol levels increased during the one-time 24-hour fast," said Dr. Horne. "The changes that were most interesting or unexpected were all related to metabolic health and diabetes risk. Together with our prior studies that showed decades of routine fasting was associated with a lower risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease, this led us to think that fasting is most impactful for reducing the risk of diabetes and related metabolic problems."

Due to the findings in 2011, Dr. Horne launched this new study to look at the effects of fasting in prediabetics over an extended period of time. The study participants were prediabetics, including men and women between the ages of 30 and 69 with a least three metabolic risk factors. These risk factors include:

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or "having an apple shape."
  • A high triglyceride level. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level, the "good" cholesterol. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood.
  • High fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

In the pool of participants qualifying for the study were people with different weights, some obese and some not. In previous fasting research performed by a few other institutions, those studies have all only examined obese participants and focused on weight loss due to fasting. Though weight loss did occur in the Intermountain Medical Center study, three pounds over six weeks, the main focus of the study was diabetes intervention.

"During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly in this study, as it did in our prior study of healthy people, but we did notice that over a six-week period decreased by about 12 percent in addition to the ," said Dr. Horne. "Because we expect that the cholesterol was used for energy during the fasting episodes and likely came from fat cells, this leads us to believe fasting may be an effective diabetes intervention."

The process of extracting LDL from the fat cells for energy should help negate insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until it can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body's demands, then blood sugar rises.

"The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes," he said. "Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, may be frustrated by fasting."

Dr. Horne says that more in-depth study is needed, but the findings lay the groundwork for that future study.

"Although may protect against ," said Dr. Horne. "It's important to keep in mind that these results were not instantaneous in the studies that we performed. It takes time. How long and how often people should fast for health benefits are additional questions we're just beginning to examine."

Explore further: Two large meals better than six small meals for controlling weight, blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes

Related Stories

Two large meals better than six small meals for controlling weight, blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes

May 15, 2014
Research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) suggests that two large meals (breakfast and lunch), rather than six small meals with the same total calories, are better ...

Forthcoming study explores use of intermittent fasting in diabetes as cardiovascular disease

April 26, 2013
Intermittent fasting is all the rage, but scientific evidence showing how such regimes affect human health is not always clear cut. Now a scientific review in the British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease suggests ...

Understanding insulin resistance; Precursor to diabetes can be reversed

November 6, 2012
Though you may not be living with diabetes, your body could be battling against the hormone insulin. The condition, called insulin resistance, occurs when insulin can't effectively do its job.

Physical activity can protect overweight women from risk for heart disease

May 20, 2014
For otherwise healthy middle-aged women who are overweight or obese, physical activity may be their best option for avoiding heart disease, according to a study that followed nearly 900 women for seven years. These findings ...

Are chromium supplements helpful in lowering blood sugar levels?

April 9, 2014
Approximately 26 percent of the U.S. population has impaired fasting glucose, which is a predisposition for developing type 2 diabetes, and chromium supplementation has been suggested as a method that may help control and ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover a new way to treat type 2 diabetes

July 21, 2017
Medication currently being used to treat obesity is also proving to have significant health benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes. A new study published today in Molecular Metabolism explains how this therapeutic benefit ...

Alzheimer's drug cuts hallmark inflammation related to metabolic syndrome by 25 percent

July 20, 2017
An existing Alzheimer's medication slashes inflammation and insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome, a potential therapeutic intervention for a highly dangerous condition affecting 30 percent of adults in the ...

Diabetes or its precursor affects 100 million Americans

July 19, 2017
Almost one-third of the US population—100 million people—either has diabetes or its precursor condition, known as pre-diabetes, said a government report Tuesday.

One virus may protect against type 1 diabetes, others may increase risk

July 11, 2017
Doctors can't predict who will develop type 1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the cells needed to control blood-sugar levels, requiring daily insulin injections and continual monitoring.

Diabetes complications are a risk factor for repeat hospitalizations, study shows

July 7, 2017
For patients with diabetes, one reason for hospitalization and unplanned hospital readmission is severe dysglycemia (uncontrolled hyperglycemia - high blood sugar, or hypoglycemia - low blood sugar), says new research published ...

Researchers identify promising target to protect bone in patients with diabetes

July 7, 2017
Utilizing metabolomics research techniques, NYU Dentistry researchers investigated the underlying biochemical activity and signaling within the bone marrow of hyperglycemic mice with hopes of reducing fracture risks of diabetics

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.