Goal: To explore the possibilities of Intermittent Fasting and its effects on diabetes, and to determine whether some level of fasting might be appropriate for you.
April 30 is National Day of Fasting and Prayer, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 30, 1863. So it seemed appropriate to focus on Intermittent Fasting during the month of April.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. “Intermittent” simply means “not continuous.” It’s intermittent because the fast is less than 24 hrs. Otherwise, 24 hrs. or more would be “extended fasting.” So you can do Intermittent Fasting every day (every 24-hr. period) if you want to because you are breaking your overnight fast.
This is something I’ve been promoting for a long time in our Facebook group, “Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics,” and always with the hashtag #MaybeSisterEllenWasRightAfterAll!
For several years, diabetes nutritionists were recommending eating six small meals a day with the rationale that this practice would keep the blood sugars stable. The reality is that eating that often keeps the digestive organs—including the pancreas—working overtime without a rest! It’s such a relief to know that current nutrition science recommends 3-5 hours between meals and no snacks in between meals. The last meal of the day should be 3-5 hours before bedtime.
Intermittent Fasting, as described by Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist, means, at its most simplistic, eating or drinking NOTHING (except plain water) between supper and breakfast. The “entry level” Intermittent Fasting might be 12:12—a 12-hour eating “window” and a 12-hour fasting window, such as ending supper at 6 p.m. and starting breakfast at 6 a.m. the next day.
Then you can begin to extend the fasting/eating schedule to 16:8 (an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting window). An example might be breakfast (or the first meal of the day to break your fast) at 8 a.m. and the last meal of the day to be finished by 4 p.m. Or you might have an early lunch at 11 a.m. and finish with supper by 7 p.m. Some people even do an 18:6 schedule, with an eating window of noon to 6 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., depending on your work, school, or household schedules.
Intermittent Fasting is perfectly safe for most healthy adults,* including diabetics with no other major health issues. If you are on medications of any kind, please consult with your doctor before attempting fasting (beyond just not eating/drinking between supper and breakfast). Be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely to make sure your fasting/pre-meal blood glucose stays in the normal range of 70-99 mg/dL (3.8-5.6 mmol/l).
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting include:
- Lower blood sugar
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure and resting heart rate
- Increased energy
- Increased brain function
- Weight loss
- Reducing overall inflammation
If you didn’t know that Ellen White supports what we now call Intermittent Fasting, I recommend an excellent article by author Dr. DeWitt S. Williams who was diagnosed as diabetic and details his research and personal testimony at https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2018/ellen-g-white-and-intermittent-fasting.
A very long list of references on Intermittent Fasting can be found at https://adventistvegetariandiabetics.wordpress.com/diabetes-basics/intermittent-fasting/.
* Just for the record, we do not recommend two meals a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding, nor for babies and small children.