Type 2 diabetes is a real epidemic these days, and it comes with all sorts of health problems. It puts you at two to four times the chance of heart disease or a stroke. It affects your brain function, damages your nerves and causes kidney problems.
The one thing many people don’t realize is that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. This is true even in people who are genetically susceptible to the disease.
As a matter of fact, a large study recently discovered that poor diet has been tied to more than 70 percent of new type 2 diabetes cases worldwide. That’s a huge number!
The biggest offenders? Eating too much refined rice, refined wheat, processed meats, red meats, sugar sweetened beverages, potatoes and fruit juice.
These foods are all staples of a typical American-style diet, and they’re killing us!
So choosing healthy foods is a big factor when it comes to reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and all of the related complications.
Time Your Meals to Reduce Diabetes Risk
Another big factor when it comes to reducing diabetes risk is a type of intermittent fasting called meal-timing.
An early 2023 study out of Australia found that this method of eating improves insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and helps with weight loss in at risk patients. These are three huge considerations when it comes to lowering your chances of developing diabetes.
The people in the study fasted three days each week. But it wasn’t a full fast. They could eat between 8 a.m. and 12 noon on those days. The rest of the week they ate on their regular schedule.
That only leaves a time-window of four hours to eat, but it’s only three days each week. So it may or may not be doable for you. If not, don’t worry. There are other forms of intermittent fasting that can work just as well.
For example, when a group of pre-diabetic men shifted to an 6-hour time-restricted schedule early in the day, they showed improvements in insulin sensitivity and the function of pancreatic beta cells – the cells that release insulin into the body.
Or, you can just designate a window of six to eight hours every day to enjoy regular meals. Then fast for the remaining 16 to 18 hours.
This is enough to automatically trigger several processes that can help optimize your health and slow down the aging process.
It will help your body burn the sugar stored in your liver as glycogen. This is great if you need to drop a little weight. That’s because the less glycogen you have in your body, the more fat you’ll burn – both at rest and when exercising.
It’s also helpful when it comes to improving insulin action and blood sugar.
Just as importantly, these 16 to 18 hour mini-fasts trigger an ancient mechanism called autophagy. This is basically an internal cleansing system for your cells and has a role in protecting insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas.
Misfolded proteins, damaged mitochondria and other cellular waste are broken down and eaten by your own body. This process makes your cells work more efficiently. (Autophagy literally means ‘to eat oneself’.)
Eat This, Not That
Taking part in intermittent fasting is a great way to kick start autophagy and maximize your health on a cellular level. Not only will you protect your health, you’ll feel better, have more energy and raise your fat burning potential.
You can set a schedule that works best for you. If you can live with a four-hour eating window three days a week and eat on your regular schedule the other four days, great for you.
Otherwise, you might opt for a daily time-window of between six and eight hours. During your eating window you can eat all of the healthy foods you want. Then, during the remaining hours, stick with no calorie beverages.
In the meantime, remember that refined rice, refined wheat, processed meats, red meats, sugar sweetened beverages, potatoes and fruit juice are responsible for an overwhelming number of diabetes cases worldwide.
So load your plate with a variety of fresh, organic plant-based foods during your eating period. Then, fill in the rest of your plate with a small amount of healthy fats and clean-sourced proteins. Do this 90% of the time and you’ll automatically be eating your way to better metabolic health.
The other 10% of the time eat some of the other foods you enjoy. This way you won’t feel “cheated,” and you’ll be more apt to be successful in your goals.
And, as always, don’t forget to get in some regular physical activity every day.
O’Hearn M, Lara-Castor L, Cudhea F, Miller V, Reedy J, Shi P, Zhang J, Wong JB, Economos CD, Micha R, Mozaffarian D; Global Dietary Database. Incident type 2 diabetes attributable to suboptimal diet in 184 countries. Nat Med. 2023 Apr;29(4):982-995.
Xiao Tong Teong, Kai Liu, Andrew D. Vincent, Julien Bensalem, Bo Liu, Kathryn J. Hattersley, Lijun Zhao, Christine Feinle-Bisset, Timothy J. Sargeant, Gary A. Wittert, Amy T. Hutchison, Leonie K. Heilbronn. Intermittent fasting plus early time-restricted eating versus calorie restriction and standard care in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Nat Med 29, 963–972 (2023).
Sutton EF, Beyl R, Early KS, Cefalu WT, Ravussin E, Peterson CM. Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes. Cell Metab. 2018 Jun 5;27(6):1212-1221.e3.
Halberg N, Henriksen M, Söderhamn N, Stallknecht B, Ploug T, Schjerling P, Dela F. Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Dec;99(6):2128-36.