Intermittent fasting: is there a role in the treatment of diabetes? A review of the literature and guide for primary care physicians

Clin Diabetes Endocrinol. 2021 Feb 3;7(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s40842-020-00116-1.


Background: Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by hyperglycemia that causes numerous complications with significant long-term morbidity and mortality. The disorder is primarily due to insulin resistance particularly in liver, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue. In this review, we detail the hormonal mechanisms leading to the development of diabetes and discuss whether intermittent fasting should be considered as an alternative, non-medicinal treatment option for patients with this disorder.

Methods: We searched PubMed, Ovid MEDLINE, and Google Scholar databases for review articles, clinical trials, and case series related to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and intermittent fasting. Articles were carefully reviewed and included based on relevance to our topic. We excluded abstracts and any non-English articles.

Results: The majority of the available research demonstrates that intermittent fasting is effective at reducing body weight, decreasing fasting glucose, decreasing fasting insulin, reducing insulin resistance, decreasing levels of leptin, and increasing levels of adiponectin. Some studies found that patients were able to reverse their need for insulin therapy during therapeutic intermittent fasting protocols with supervision by their physician.

Conclusion: Current evidence suggests that intermittent fasting is an effective non-medicinal treatment option for type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to delineate the effects of intermittent fasting from weight loss. Physicians should consider educating themselves regarding the benefits of intermittent fasting. Diabetic patients should consult their physician prior to beginning an intermittent fasting regimen in order to allow for appropriate oversight and titration of the patients medication regimen during periods of fasting.

Keywords: Diabetes; Health; Intermittent fasting; Nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review