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Tired of dieting? Time-restricted eating is a safe alternative

Intermittent fasting, specifically time-restricted eating, has gained prominence as an innovative dietary approach.

A recent study from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) suggests that this method may not only be safe – but also highly effective – for individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Beneficial strategy

The research highlights the benefits of consuming meals within an eight-hour window, specifically from noon to 8 p.m., as participants adhering to this regimen experienced more weight loss over a six-month period than those who decreased their calorie intake by 25 percent. 

This is significant given that the traditional advice for diabetics often focuses on calorie reduction.

Blood sugar levels

Moreover, despite the differences in dietary methods, both sets of participants showcased similar reductions in their long-term blood sugar levels. 

This was determined through a hemoglobin A1C test, which offers insight into blood sugar levels spanning the last three months.

Focus of the study 

The comprehensive study was focused on 75 participants, who were distributed into three distinct groups: time-restricted eating, calorie reduction, and a control group. 

Over half a year, the research team meticulously measured the participants’ weight, waist circumference, blood sugar levels, among other critical health indicators.

Surprising ease

Study senior author Krista Varady, a professor of Kinesiology and Nutrition at UIC, said the time-restricted eating group adapted to this regimen with surprising ease. 

By contrast, many individuals in the calorie-reducing group struggled to follow the dietary recommendations. 

The researchers believe this is partly because patients with diabetes are generally told to cut back on calories by their doctors as a first line of defense, so many of these participants likely had already tried – and struggled with – that form of dieting. 

Effective alternative 

Notably, although the participants practicing time-restricted eating weren’t specifically advised to cut calories, the defined eating window inadvertently led them to do so.

“Our study shows that time-restricted eating might be an effective alternative to traditional dieting for people who can’t do the traditional diet or are burned out on it,” said Professor Varady. “For many people trying to lose weight, counting time is easier than counting calories.” 

Study implications 

Importantly, the six-month study did not report any adverse events. Both occurrences of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) remained consistent across the diet and control groups.

Given that an estimated 1 in 10 U.S. residents is diagnosed with diabetes – a figure projected to escalate to 1 in 3 by 2050 – the need for alternative dietary solutions is pressing. 

While the study serves as an initial step in establishing the safety of intermittent fasting for Type 2 diabetics, Professor Varady emphasized the need for larger follow-up studies. She also noted that people with diabetes should consult their doctors before starting a time-restricted diet. 

The research is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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