Diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot make insulin (type I) or is damaged by insulin resistance (type II).
Researchers have been able to reverse symptoms of diabetes and restore pancreas functions in mice by putting them on a version of the fasting-mimicking diet.
University of Southern California says the diet reversed symptoms of both types of diabetes in mice.
The diet tricks the body into a fasting mode for a few days a month, even while carefully selected foods are still being eaten, and it could be enough to reboot the organ’s key functions and restore insulin production, scientists say.
“By pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back… the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming,” says the head of the research team, Valter Longo.
The diet has also been credited with reducing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, so it’s earning quite a reputation amongst scientists. In each case starving the body seems to reset the production of healthy cells.
They regained healthy insulin production, reduced insulin resistance 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 foetal mice.
The genes set off production of a protein, neurogenin-3 (Ngn3); thus, generating new, healthy insulin-producing beta cells.
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.
Another study by the same team published last week 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, researchers said.