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Experts Skeptical on Claims That Intermittent Fasting Can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

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A new study involving three men concluded that occasional fasting can help reverse type 2 diabetes.

Three men with type 2 diabetes were able to stop insulin treatment altogether after intermittent fasting, but experts are warning that people shouldn’t try such a practice on their own.

A small study published in BMJ Case Reports looked at three men between the ages of 40 and 67 who tried occasional fasting for approximately 10 months.

All of the men were able to stop insulin treatment within a month after starting the intermittent fasting. One of the men was able to stop insulin treatment after only five days of the fasting technique.

“This study shows that a dietary intervention — therapeutic fasting — has the potential to completely reverse type 2 diabetes, even when somebody has suffered with the disease for 25 years. It changes everything about how we should treat the disease,” Dr. Jason Fung, author of the study and director of the Intensive Dietary Management Program, told Healthline.

Fung’s assertions that type 2 diabetes can be reversed is contrary to the views of other diabetes experts who spoke with Healthline.

“It’s potentially dangerous to tell patients their diabetes has been reversed, because one is always at risk for progression, even if not being treated by medication,” Dr. Matthew Freeby, director of the Gonda Diabetes Center in Los Angeles and the associate director of diabetes clinical programs at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, told Healthline.

Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief medical officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Massachusetts, agrees.

“We don’t think of reversing it, but more that it is in remission. Still need to screen for complications as far as we know,” he told Healthline.

What happens with diabetes

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 to 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes.

In a person with type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood.

“When we eat foods containing carbohydrates (breads, cereals, pasta, fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy), the body digests the carbohydrates into single sugars. The pancreas simultaneously receives a signal to release insulin. Insulin is released into the bloodstream and acts as a key to unlock the cells, allowing the single sugars to enter the cells and provide energy,” Lauri Wright, PhD, assistant professor of public health at the University of South Florida, told Healthline.

“Without enough functioning insulin as we see in type 2 diabetes, some of the single sugars build up in the cell and aren’t able to provide cells with energy,” she said.

High blood sugar levels can be damaging to the body and cause other health issues, such as kidney problems, vision loss, and heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes may be managed by healthy eating and exercise. Some people may get prescribed injectable insulin to help manage blood sugar levels.

Results from the study

In Fung’s study, three men attempted intermittent fasting to see the impact it had on their diabetes.

Two of the men fasted every second day for 24 hours. The third man fasted for three days in a week.

On days when the men fasted, they were allowed to drink low-calorie drinks such as water, tea, coffee, and broth. They were also permitted a low-calorie meal at night.

“Fasting is literally the oldest dietary intervention known to mankind, having been used for thousands of years and having been part of human culture and religion for at least as long,” Fung said.

“The thing that surprised me most was how quickly patients got better,” Fung added. “Even after 25 years of diabetes, the maximum time it took to get off insulin was 18 days. All three patients improved their diabetes to the point that they no longer required insulin, and it only took from 5 to 18 days in this study,” he said.

“Imagine taking insulin for 10 years, and all that time, somebody could have treated you with intermittent fasting, and you would not have needed to inject yourself daily for the last decade,” Fung said.

Fung concedes his study is small and more research is needed.

Some cautionary words

All of the experts who spoke with Healthline urge caution when interpreting the results of such an anecdotal study.

“To many people with diabetes, such a study conclusion can be perceived as insulting,” Raquel Pereira, a registered dietitian specializing in diabetes, told Healthline.

“People with diabetes already suffer from the disease prognosis, complications, and limitations. Imagine hearing that the way that they can manage such disease is to then deprive themselves of nutritious foods, which provide health benefits as well energy and pleasure,” she said.

“As researchers, we must invest our efforts into solutions that are more attainable and have a more positive health impact for the vast majority of people with diabetes,” Pereira added.

She says fasting for a person with diabetes can be potentially dangerous and requires medical supervision.

“The research in fasting is minimal, and we definitely need more well-controlled research trials to determine if there are any benefits, but especially who might benefit,” Pereira said.

“Disordered eating patterns are quite common in diabetes, and I would be very concerned about the long-term consequences of fasting. Many people may feel low energy, low mental concentration, low reflexes, headaches, lower immunity, and as a result have their quality of life and productivity suffer,” she said.

Wright says fasting doesn’t always have a positive effect for people with diabetes.

“For diabetic patients, especially on insulin, fasting can cause hypoglycemia. We see some people that fast or go for long periods of time binge-eat when they resume eating, which is counterproductive for diabetes,” she said.

“A study such as this gives us clues for further research,” Wright added. “The research overall on intermittent fasting in diabetics is limited and needs to be expanded before we can make recommendations supporting fasting.”

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Why Cancer in Younger Adults Is Increasing So Dramatically

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Certain cancers are showing up more often in younger adults. Researchers believe obesity is to blame.

A comprehensive study published this week found that 6 out of 12 types of cancer thought to result from being significantly overweight are becoming notably more common among those under the age of 50.

What’s more, the younger the patient, the more common certain cancers were.

The findings, published in The Lancet Public Health, noted a significant increase in the incidence of multiple myeloma — rare cancer that attacks the bone marrow — along with colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer.

Obesity has also been linked to cancer of the stomach, liver, breasts, ovaries, esophagus, and thyroid.

The study’s authors said their work is the first since the mid-1990s to review trends in the incidence of these 12 obesity-related cancers. They compared them with 18 other cancers among younger adults.

The team reviewed 20 years of data on those cancers, studying information from state registries on patients ranging in age from 25 to 84.

They found more than 14 million cases diagnosed from 1995 through 2014 for the 30 types of cancer.

“What makes this study relevant is that it’s very large,” said Dr. Anton Bilchik, a professor of surgery and chief of medicine at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in California.

That obesity-related cancers are showing up in relatively young people has been the subject of multiple studies in recent years.

What’s striking about this latest research, Bilchik told Healthline, is both its scope and the discovery that the incidence of some of these diseases is rising among successively younger groups.

By contrast, rates either dropped or held steady in all­­ but 2 of the 18 cancers not related to obesity.

Bilchik is seeing the trend among his own patients.

In the past week, Bilchik operated on four individuals under 55 with diagnoses of advanced-stage cancers that usually affect people in their 60s and 70s.

Two of them were obese and the other two had been overweight as children, which Bilchik thinks also predisposed them to cancer.

One example of the inverse relationship between risk and age is pancreatic cancer.

The study’s authors found the incidence of that disease changed .77 percent per year on average in the 45- to 49-year age group.

By contrast, the annual incidence rose by 2.47 percent on average among 30- to 34-year-olds. In the 25- to 29-year-old cohort, the average yearly change was 4.34 percent.

Although adults ages 50 and older also experienced steady increases in the incidence of most of those obesity-related cancers — colorectal and uterine were the exceptions — the magnitude of those changes was smaller than among younger age groups, except for thyroid cancer.

What’s the connection?

The connection between obesity and certain cancers remains unclear, as does the reason for the uptick of those illnesses in ever-younger populations.

However, medical experts have some theories.

Experiments on mice have shown that obesity accelerates the uncontrolled growth of cells, which could result in human malignancies being discovered earlier in life, the recent study reported.

Obesity has been an increasingly worrisome problem for decades now.

An estimated 40 percent of adults and 18 percent of young people in the United States are obese, despite national guidelines that recommend doctors screen children and young adults for obesity.

The recent study noted that fewer than half of primary care physicians routinely calculate their patients’ body mass index and only one-third of people with obesity report that their doctor determined they were substantially overweight or referred them to weight loss counseling.

But there are other aspects of the problem as well.

Genes, metabolism, and exposure to environmental factors such as processed foods might also play a role in obesity, said Dr. George Chang, professor of surgery and chief of colorectal surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“It’s certainly a very complex issue and that’s why it’s such a difficult public health problem,” Chang told Healthline.

What are the solutions?

Finding a solution will require the efforts of all stakeholders, Chang said.

“I think everybody’s responsible,” he said.

Individuals need to understand the consequences of poor lifestyle choices and healthcare providers should be impressing the importance of proper diet and exercise with their patients even though it can be a sensitive topic for those who are overweight, Chang said.

Policy makers also have a role to play. One way could be limiting students’ access to food and sugary drinks that contribute to childhood obesity, Chang said.

The study noted that although some communities are taxing sodas and creating pedestrian-friendly areas to boost physical activity, they remain the exception.

Other factors

Obesity itself isn’t necessarily the only culprit in a younger person’s cancer diagnosis, however.

Other health complications that excess weight can cause — such as diabetes and gallstones — are also associated with cancer, according to the report.

So is a diet that’s top-heavy with red or processed meat but short on fruits and vegetables.

Whatever the cause, the study concluded that the growing problem of obesity-related cancers in younger generations ultimately could stop or even reverse the progress that’s been made in reducing cancer deaths.

The bottom lineA new study says cancers related to obesity are on the rise among younger adults.

In particular, there has been a significant increase in multiple myeloma, colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancers.

In addition, the younger the age group the higher the increase was.

Researchers said doctors need to emphasize healthy eating choices as well as exercise routines to younger people.

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Drinking soda linked to higher risk of kidney disease, finds new study

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New United States research has found that a high intake of sugar sweetened beverages such as sweetened fruit drinks and soda may be linked to an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, the new study looked at 3,003 African-American men and women with normal kidney function who were enrolled in the Jackson Heart Study, a long-term study investigating risk factors for diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.

The researchers assessed beverage intake using a food frequency questionnaire completed at the start of the study from 2000 to 2004, and then followed participants until 2009 to 2013.

The findings, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), showed that consuming a “beverage pattern” of soda, sweetened fruit drinks, and water was associated with a higher risk of developing CKD.

Although certain beverages, such as sugar-sweetened drinks, have already been found to affect kidney health, previous findings have been inconsistent. The new study also contributes to the growing body of evidence of the negative health consequences of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

However, the researchers were surprised to find that water was one of the drinks also linked with a higher risk of CKD. They noted that the participants’ water consumption may have included a wide variety of types of water, including flavored and sweetened water, although unfortunately, the researchers did not collect information about specific brands or types of bottled water in the Jackson Heart Study. JB

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Don’t Drink Sugar Calories

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Sugary drinks are the most fattening things you can put into your body.

This is because liquid sugar calories don’t get registered by the brain in the same way as calories from solid foods.

For this reason, when you drink soda, you end up eating more total calories.

Sugary drinks are strongly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and all sorts of health problems.

Keep in mind that fruit juices are almost as bad as soda in this regard. They contain just as much sugar, and the small amounts of antioxidants do NOT negate the harmful effects of the sugar.

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