Cutting calories for 5 days 'can re-programme the body'

27 February 2017

Fasting and restricted calorie diets are big trends in the dieting world right now, but experts have found they can have more health benefits than just losing weight.

A team of researchers from the University of Southern California found that cutting calories to a fraction of what’s usually consumed for five days can re-programme the body to start producing insulin again, therefore reversing diabetes.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin, and type 2 diabetes, where the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin.

The new theory was tested on mice, who were injected with chemicals that caused both types of diabetes. They were then starved and re-fed three times, which caused the condition to begin to reverse.

The team now want to try out the theory on humans, but rather than starving them, reduce patients’ calorie intake to 700 to 1000 calories a day, in the form of soups, energy drinks and protein bars for five days. They’d then return to a normal eating plan.

The results have been published in journal Cell, with lead researcher Professor Valter Longo commenting on his team’s findings.

“Our conclusion is that by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back – by starving and then feeding them again – the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that's no longer function,” he stated.

“By activating the regeneration of pancreatic cells, we were able to rescue mice from late-stage type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“We also reactivated insulin production in human pancreatic cells from type 1 diabetes patients.”

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