A new trial found people with type 2 diabetes lost more weight by eating anything they wanted within an 8-hour timeframe daily than closely monitoring calories. Both groups had similar blood sugar improvements.
Time-Restricted Eating an Alternative to Calorie Counting
The research demonstrates time-restricted eating, a form of intermittent fasting, can promote weight loss without calorie counting. This provides a useful alternative for diabetes patients struggling with traditional diets.
Study author Dr. Krista Varady called time-restricted eating a good option for those unable to maintain calorie-restricted diets, since tracking time is simpler than tracking calories for many.
Trial Recruited 75 Adults With Type 2 Diabetes
The 6-month trial recruited 75 participants with an average age of 55 and BMI of 39. The cohort was over 90% Hispanic and Black, groups disproportionately affected by diabetes.
This helped ensure the study documented the efficacy of time-restricted eating specifically for populations with high diabetes rates.
Participants Assigned to 3 Groups
Participants were divided into 3 groups: time-restricted eating, calorie restriction, and a control group who didn’t change eating habits. This enabled direct diet comparison.
The time-restricted group fasted for 16 hours, eating only between 12pm-8pm without counting calories or changing foods. The calorie counters cut intake by 25%.
Time-Restricted Group Lost Twice as Much Weight
After 6 months, the time-restricted eaters lost 3.6% body weight versus just 1.8% for calorie counters. Both groups reduced hemoglobin A1c, a key blood sugar marker, by 0.9%.
This suggests time-restricted eating promotes more weight loss, though blood sugar improvements were similar between diets.
Researchers Surprised by Modest Calorie Restriction Impact
The modest calorie restriction outcomes surprised researchers, who expected greater weight loss for this proven approach. But the group struggled with adherence and cut calories less than intended.
In contrast, most time-restricted participants found the diet easy to stick to. This indicates fasting may be more sustainable long-term.
Belly Fat Reductions Helped Lower Blood Sugar
Though weight loss differed between groups, they had comparable visceral belly fat and waist reductions. This likely contributed to their similar blood sugar decreases despite varied weight loss.
Losing belly fat is extremely impactful for lowering diabetes risk, beyond just scale numbers. Both diets succeeded by this important metric.
Weight Loss Modest Compared to New Diabetes Medications
However, the under 4% weight loss among fasters paled in comparison to some newer diabetes medications that generate 15-20% losses.
While helpful, intermittent fasting’s effects seemed minor next to these pharmaceuticals’ dramatic impacts.
Larger, Longer Trials Still Needed
Researchers acknowledged larger, longer studies are still needed to confirm time-restricted eating’s benefits and safety for diabetics. This was a small, short-duration trial requiring follow-up.
But the findings provide promising proof of concept that intermittent fasting can assist diabetics without compromising blood sugar control or health.
Patients Should Consult Doctors Before Fasting
Experts advised patients interested in pursuing intermittent fasting diets to first consult their physician and get individualized guidance.
While this study suggests benefits, medical supervision is still recommended for diabetics considering significant dietary changes.
In summary, this pioneering trial indicates time-restricted eating could become a viable weight loss strategy for type 2 diabetics who struggle with calorie counting. But patients should involve their doctors before implementing intermittent fasting.