Alan Chartock | I, Publius: 'Alternative fasting' a promising way to treat diabetes

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GREAT BARRINGTON — In the United States, more than 100 million people have diabetes or are pre-diabetic.

Over 29 million of them have Type 2 diabetes and just over 1 million have Type 1 diabetes. This means that roughly 14 percent of adults age 20 and over in this country have diabetes, including 7 million people with diabetes who remain undiagnosed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. That is quite frightening.

Nobody knows for certain why this is happening, but many suspect that one explanation could be the obesity epidemic. We are eating too much, exercising too little and we are too heavy.

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that between 2015 and 2016, over 70 percent of adults age 20 and over were obese or overweight. As a result of obesity we become resistant to our own insulin, the hormone that permits glucose to move from outside to inside cells.

This resistance provokes our insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas to make more insulin. This stress, in turn, can lead to impaired beta cell function, inadequate insulin production and resulting hyperglycemia or diabetes. Weight loss and exercise reverse insulin resistance and reduce hyperglycemia. However, these lifestyle changes have proven challenging for many.

Physicians have many ways of treating diabetes, often prescribing medications like Metformin. It seems like there isn't a day that some new medicine isn't being released by big pharma. Quite frequently the disease runs in families, but many people who don't know of family members with diabetes get the disease every day. In any case, many people with diabetes have been searching for a better way to control their blood sugar (glucose).

The initial treatment for Type 2 diabetes should include a change in diet routine. Dr. Jason Fung is among a group of docs who have rediscovered that what they call "alternative fasting" seems to offer new hope of controlling blood sugar and, according to Dr. Fung, reversing diabetes.

It's not only what you eat but when you eat. My general practitioner, Dr. Paul Lemanski, spoke about the new system on WAMC's Medical Monday. Remembering that I am not a physician and don't dispense medical advice — Dr. Gregg Gerrity helped me with the background for this article — I can only echo Lemanski and Fung. I decided to try it and am here to tell you: alternative fasting works. My glucose numbers are remarkably lower than they were previously.

Here's how I do it: I eat within an eight-hour period. My last meal is at 4 or 5 p.m. Then I wait for 16 hours for my next meal. If I ate at 5 p.m. that means I can't eat until 9 a.m. the next day. If I ate at 7 p.m., my first meal of the next day would be at 11 a.m., consuming the same number of calories as before but in alternative fasting regimen days.

Some people eat every other day, not eating at all for a 24-hour period. Whether my results are due to eating less on this alternative fasting diet, or consuming the same number of calories as before the diet but in an alternative fasting regimen, I can't say.

But, I have to tell you that for me, at least — and only thus far, the results have been remarkable.

Check with your doctor before you do anything. Look up Dr. Fung. Your can always get a second opinion. Naturally what you eat in your eight-hour eating period is also very important. Hey, it ain't easy but at least for me, it's worth it.

An awful lot of people have been following the old way of dealing with this disease. Every once in a while someone comes along with a new approach and every once in a while, it works. Just sayin'.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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