Fasting-mimicking diet may reverse diabetes

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A diet designed to imitate the effects of fasting appears to reverse diabetes by reprogramming cells, a new USC-led study shows.

The fasting-like diet promotes the growth of new insulin-producing that reduce symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in mice, according to the study on mice and led by Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

"Cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet and a normal diet essentially reprogrammed non-insulin-producing into ," said Longo, who is also a professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "By activating the regeneration of pancreatic cells, we were able to rescue mice from late-stage type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We also reactivated in human pancreatic cells from type 1 diabetes patients."

The reprogrammed adult cells and organs prompted a regeneration in which damaged cells were replaced with new functional ones, he said.

The study published on Feb. 23 in the journal Cell, is the latest in a series of studies to demonstrate promising health benefits of a brief, periodic diet that mimics the effects of a water-only fast.

Diabetic mice on fasting-mimicking diet repair insulin-producing pancreas cells
This visual abstract depicts the findings of Cheng et al., who show a short-term diet that mimics periodic fasting modulates b-cell number and promotes insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis with implications for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Credit: Cheng et al./Cell 2017

Reversing insulin resistance and depletion

In type 1 and late-stage type 2 diabetes, the pancreas loses insulin-producing beta cells, increasing instability in blood sugar levels. The study showed a remarkable reversal of diabetes in mice placed on the fasting-mimicking diet for four days each week. They regained healthy insulin production, reduced and demonstrated more stable levels of blood glucose. This was the case even for mice in the later stages of the disease.

The diet cycles switched on genes in the adult mice that are normally active only in the developing pancreases of fetal mice. The genes set off production of a protein, neurogenin-3 (Ngn3); thus, generating new, healthy .

Next steps: clinical study

Longo and his team also examined pancreatic cell cultures from human donors and found that, in cells from type 1 diabetes patients, fasting also increased expression of the Ngn3 protein and accelerated insulin production. The results suggest that a fasting-mimicking diet could alleviate diabetes in humans.

Longo and his research team have amassed evidence indicating several health benefits of the fasting-mimicking diet. Their study published last week in Science Translational Medicine demonstrated that the fasting-mimicking diet reduced risks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases in human study participants who followed the special diet for five days each month in a three-month span.

Prior studies on the diet have shown potential for alleviating symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease multiple sclerosis, increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy for cancer treatments, and decreasing visceral fat.

"These findings warrant a larger FDA trial on the use of the fasting-mimicking diet to treat human to help them produce normal levels of insulin while improving insulin function," Longo said. "Hopefully, people with diabetes could one day be treated with an FDA-approved fasting-mimicking for a few days each month and gain control over their insulin production and blood sugar."

Explore further

Scientifically-designed fasting diet lowers risks for major diseases

More information: Cheng et al: "Fasting-mimicking diet promotes Ngn3-driven β-cell regeneration to reverse diabetes" Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.040

Min Wei et al. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, Science Translational Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700

Journal information: Cell , Science Translational Medicine

Citation: Fasting-mimicking diet may reverse diabetes (2017, February 23) retrieved 17 September 2019 from
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User comments

Feb 23, 2017
Wow! talk about a preventable disease! Diabetes, cancer, heart attacks....the list seems endless.
Well done to the researchers.

Feb 24, 2017
Doctors have become very good at treating the problem but don't really have an incentive for curing the problem. No patients equals, no money. I had a heart attack at 46. I ate well, didn't smoke or drink and exercised regularly. My total cholesterol was always below 200. I'm just predisposed genetically for plaque build up if I don't really watch what I eat. Our bodies can self correct if given the proper ingredients. Today's food is processed and even less nutritious because the soil is being depleted and chemical fertilizers can't replenish it. A friend told me about moringa oleifera and now I consume it daily. It's like broccoli on steroids and grown organically. It was a super food before the term super food was coined. I refused to take a statin, exercise more and eat moringa. My numbers are always good. There is has been no worsening of my blockages. When the doctor asked what I am doing I told him about moringa. He didn't have an open mind because it goes against his training.

Feb 24, 2017
Stop stuffing your faces and get healthy, what a revelation. I've done a lot of fasting and when I ask my friends/family to try it, "it's too hard to do". Society teaches us that we need to have elevated blood glucose levels around the clock and that's total crap. We didn't evolve this way and our current lifestyle is completely counter to eating every few days when we found food.

Feb 24, 2017
Fasting-Mimicking Diet Promotes Ngn3-Driven b-Cell Regeneration to Reverse Diabetes
'we showed that a 4-day fasting mimicking diet (FMD) could induce metabolic changes similar to those caused by prolonged fasting and could reduce insulin and glucose levels while increasing ketone bodies and igfbp1'
' the effects of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD)—low in calories, sugars, and protein but high in unsaturated fats—on markers/risk factors associated with aging and age-related diseases. We compared subjects who followed 3 months of an unrestricted diet to subjects who consumed the FMD for 5 consecutive days per month for 3 months. Three FMD cycles reduced body weight, trunk, and total body fat; lowered blood pressure; and decreased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)'


Feb 28, 2017
well wt is this diet?

Mar 08, 2017
A month ago I chatted with a morbidly obese guy in a powered chair who went on to order half a dozen donuts in a Tim Hortons. Sometimes you don't have a right to complain...

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