Researchers at the Intermountain Heart Institute at
Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, noticed that after 10 to 12 hours
of fasting, the body starts scavenging for other sources of energy throughout the body to sustain
During fasting, the body breaks down fat cells, draws bad
cholesterol (LDL) from them and converts it into energy for its sustenance.
Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic
epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and lead
researcher on the study said, "Fasting has the potential to become an
important diabetes intervention."
"Though we've studied fasting and it's health benefits for years, we
didn't know why fasting could provide the health benefits we observed related
to the risk of diabetes," Horne noted.
The new study aimed to look at the
impact of fasting on prediabetes over an extended period of time.
The study included both men and
women between the ages of 30 and 60 and who had at least three metabolic risk
The risk factors included a large waistline, a high triglyceride level, a
low HDL or a high LDL, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar.
Not all the participants were obese.
Previous studies have involved only
obese people with the focus being only weight loss.
The primary focus of the new study
was diabetes intervention, though a weight loss of 3 pounds over 6 weeks ensued
in the Intermountain Medical Centre study
The study researchers noticed a
reduction in cholesterol levels in people with pre-diabetes over an extended
period of time.
They located a biological process
occurring in the body during fasting that extracts bad cholesterol in fat cells
and converts it into energy, thereby reducing diabetes risk factors.
This process of drawing LDL
cholesterol from fat cells for energy conversion should help neutralize insulin
Insulin resistance is a
physiological condition in which the body produces more insulin but does not
use it optimally. So blood sugar builds
up in the blood leading to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Dr Horne said: 'The fat cells
themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to
'Because fasting may help to
eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by
Dr Horne called for a more in-depth
study and said the findings lay the groundwork for that future study, adding:
'Although fasting may protect against diabetes it's important to keep in mind
that these results were not instantaneous in the studies that we performed. It
'How long and how often people
should fast for health benefits are additional questions we're just beginning
The research was
presented at the annual American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions.