Can Intermittent Fasting Benefit People with Diabetes?

Medically Reviewed by DR. HARDIK BAMBHANIA, MBBS, MD , 8 Years of Experience February 13, 2024

Intermittent fasting is known to carry many health benefits, but can it help in diabetes management? Diabetes is a chronic health problem that affects how a person’s body uses glucose. When a person has diabetes, their body either produces inadequate insulin or cannot use it efficiently. This may cause blood sugar spikes.

But there is no need to worry, as there are several ways by which diabetes can be managed. One of these ways is a controlled diet. This blog describes how you can include intermittent fasting into an inclusive diabetes care plan and whether fasting with diabetes would be proper.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

When a person fasts intermittently, their food quantity gets limited. This may range from a few hours to a few days. Many diets concentrate on what to eat. Nonetheless, intermittent fasting is all about when a person eats. A person can only consume during a particular time in intermittent fasting. According to Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, intermittent fasting helps lessen fasting blood glucose by 5.6%. Moreover, intermittent fasting helps lessen blood sugar levels and fluctuations significantly. It also enhances insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin levels in diabetic patients. Intermittent fasting is a blessing in disguise for especially overweight and obese diabetic patients.

Ways To Follow Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes

Ways to follow intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting – 16:8

One of the identified intermittent fasting plans is 16:8 or 16/8. People on this schedule would only eat for a maximum of 16 hours, almost certainly overnight. This is followed by two to three meals during the remaining 8 hours. For instance, they can have their dinner at 6 pm and have breakfast after 10 am the next day. This fasting protocol is quite manageable, and one can easily include it into their daily timetable.

Intermittent Fasting – 12:12

This intermittent fasting schedule includes fasting for 12 hours each day. Hence, a person has 12 hours to consume. 12:12 is an equally distributed plan, an outstanding choice for beginners. People usually follow this schedule daily as it’s less restrictive than other eating patterns.

Intermittent Fasting – 20:4

This fasting schedule is appropriate for people who don’t feel starving during the day, are busy in their workplace, and don’t have time to have food. 20:4 is a restrictive eating pattern with a 4-hour eating period and a 20-hour fasting window. For instance, a person may consume two meals between 1 and 5 pm and fast for 20 hours. During these 4 hours, they may eat as much as they wish to. However, eating enough calories and nutrients during this short time is challenging.

Intermittent Fasting – 5:2

The 5:2 plan or fast diet inspires standard eating for 5 days and fasting for 2 days a week. During these two days, people can only eat nearly 500 to 600 calories daily. Yet, there are no eating restrictions for the remaining five days. For instance, a person may fast on Tuesday and Saturday and eat on other days. Remember to fast on non-consecutive days.

Intermittent Fasting – 24 Hours

The name speaks; a 24-hour intermittent fasting plan implies fasting for 24 hours between meals. For instance, eat at 8 pm and fast till 8 pm on the subsequent day. The goal is to consume one meal daily and fast for long periods. A nutritionist does not suggest this fasting plan.

Intermittent Fasting – 36 Hours

This type of fasting is more rigorous and is an expanded version of the 24-hour fasting plan. To follow this schedule, a person may begin with dinner on day 1, fast for the entire 2nd day, and then have breakfast on the 3rd day. It is recommended that people must not do it often, particularly if they have diabetes.

Intermittent Fasting – Alternate Day Fasting

Under this fasting plan, a person would be fasting every other day. It includes eating usually on day one and one meal of 500 calories on day 2. Alternate-day fasting is a highly unmaintainable type of intermittent fasting in the long run.

Read More: Can Type 2 Diabetes be Reversed Permanently?

Will Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes Work?

Individuals with diabetes tend to experience an increased appetite, which causes binge eating in one sitting. It produces an overburden on the pancreas to liberate the essential amounts of insulin. Furthermore, all the additional glucose from overeating starts to get stored as fat. Gradually, it results in insulin resistance and weight gain, eventually deteriorating diabetes. This is when the need for intermittent fasting comes. Following a periodic fasting schedule gives your body time to return.

Since this fasting plan gives a break between meals, the insulin levels fall, and blood sugar levels remain stable. Furthermore, it supports detoxification. These factors are essential for better diabetes control. Take care that the effects of intermittent fasting for diabetes are not similar for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. According to the National Institute of Health, intermittent fasting is an efficient weight loss paradigm for overweight diabetics. Some research studies also show that in individuals with borderline diabetes, the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan worked, and they experienced weight loss and improved blood sugar levels. Yet, individuals with type 1 diabetes might not benefit from this plan. It might make diabetes control more challenging and increase the risk of hypoglycemia.

So, the advantage of intermittent fasting is improved blood sugar control. Intermittent fasting has been found to improve blood glucose levels. It also aids in regulating the release of glucose into the blood. This may give rise to lowered blood glucose levels by restricting meal consumption to definite times. As told earlier, type 2 diabetes patients doing intermittent fasting successfully curtailed fasting blood sugar levels by 5.6%. The NIH website says in their new clinical trial, an NIH-funded research team headed by Doctor Krista Varady from the Illinois Chicago University compared side by side fasting and calorie restriction for weight loss and blood-sugar reduction. They recruited 75 people with obesity and type 2 diabetes. After 5-6 months, patients in the fasting category lost averagely, 3.6% of their body weight compared to patients of the control group. Along with this, the individuals also lessened their average blood sugar.

In addition, it has been proven that fasting with diabetes enhances insulin sensitivity. Or the body’s ability to respond to insulin and effectively use glucose. The Mount Elizabeth Hospital research studies also found that intermittent fasting improved insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin levels in individuals with prediabetes.

This provokes a further benefit of intermittent fasting and diabetes in that it may help in managing prediabetes. Prediabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are beyond normal but not high enough to be called type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting may thus lead to prevention or delay of the onset of type 2 diabetes in a few individuals with prediabetes.

Read More: Top 10 Homeopathic Medicine For Diabetes.

Potential Advantages of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes

Advantages of intermittent fasting

Weight Management

Intermittent fasting for diabetes acts on the principle of calorie control. It regulates the quantity of food a person eats and promotes an overall drop in calorie consumption. When a person eats fewer calories and burns more, it results in a calorie shortage. Consequently, the body begins to use all the fat stored. As a result, it supports weight loss. According to a 2023 NIH study, intermittent fasting can greatly reduce body weight by 25% in 6 months. A crucial factor for successful diabetes management is to maintain a healthy weight.

Low Insulin Resistance

Executing intermittent fasting with diabetes may help decrease fasting insulin and insulin resistance in overweight diabetics. Moreover, according to the University of Minnesota, intermittent fasting may help reduce insulin resistance by 3 to 6% in individuals with prediabetes. Daily fasting is the best way to improve one’s insulin sensitivity. Also, it promotes healthier insulin levels.

Cellular Repair

Cellular damage is commonly seen among individuals with diabetes as it enhances the chances of tissue injuries and cell death. Instead, intermittent fasting for diabetes supports the process of detoxification and lets the body rinse itself. Thus, it removes the waste or junk constituents accountable for impaired cell function and damage.

Cardiovascular Health

Individuals with type 2 diabetes are inclined to high cardiovascular risk. However, intermittent fasting stabilizes blood glucose levels and removes damaging free radicals via detoxification. Hence, it improves heart health. Also, it has been found that alternate-day fasting decreased triglyceride levels by 32%, thus reducing the bad cholesterol in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, since intermittent fasting lessens cholesterol and sugar levels. These two are the top high-risk factors of heart disease since these two are in control, the chances of heart ailments lessen or get controlled. Hence, individuals who want to stabilize their blood pressure should try it.

Read More: How to Stop Sugar Craving Naturally?

What Are These Downsides of Intermittent Fasting For Diabetes?

Downsides of intermittent fasting


Inadequate hydration is one of people’s most common blunders while practicing intermittent fasting. Individuals do not have water along with the food, resulting in dehydration. Irrespective of whether a person has diabetes or not, staying hydrated is crucial to prevent health complications. People must ensure they have water during their fasting window.

Binge Eating

Individuals are prone to having more unhealthy snacks and careless eating during the non-fasting period. For instance, in an intermittent fasting plan of 20:4, it’s almost certain to fall into the attraction and overeat during the 4 hours. Consequently, it defeats the purpose and becomes ineffective.

Fatigue and Irritation

Adapting to intermittent fasting patterns takes a couple of errors and trials. For an individual with diabetes, it may take around weeks to cheer up. Until then, they might experience feelings of fatigue or low energy. Furthermore, such sudden changes in eating plans can bring feelings of irritability to some.


The stomach produces acidic gastric juice for digestive processes to go smoothly. This process occurs every time whether a person is fasting or not. When there’s no food to disintegrate, the acidic gastric juice attacks and fades the stomach lining—as a result, resulting in acidity and stomach ulcers.

Read More: 10 Best Glucometers in India

What To Drink While Fasting With Diabetes?

It is quite possible to feel dehydrated after following intermittent fasting. Hydration is crucial; however, many must remember to add a beverage to their fasting cycle. Hydration is mandatory, mainly if a person has diabetes or other health conditions. When a person opts for a drink, avoid those packed with carbs or sugar. These drinks may include diet soda, sweetened coffee, or flavored beverages. Below are a few diabetes-friendly drinks that don’t aggravate the insulin response during Intermittent Fasting:

Read More: 15 Ways To Lower Your Insulin Levels Naturally

Tips for people doing intermittent fasting with diabetes

  • Before initiating a periodic fasting schedule, it is better to speak to the concerned doctor and find an approach that better fits the person. Besides, there is also a need to adjust the medicine doses.
  • Healthy eating is crucial. Even if people consume for a shorter period, they must pick the most nutritious options. Adherence to a  diabetes-friendly diet remains critical. Any diabetic needs to adhere to a stringent diet plan of antioxidants, fibers, and fewer carbs. To achieve this, Breathe Well-being, a health-tech company, has successfully reversed diabetes in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal or high-carb foods immediately after breaking the fast. It would quickly increase blood sugar levels. In its place, have more fiber and protein-rich foods.
  • Regular blood glucose monitoring is important as well. Long periods of fasting are expected to bring a change. So, standard tracking is necessary to look out for any anomalies. Are you interested in knowing more about frequent blood glucose targets? Please speak to our experts at Breathe Well-Being. If you want to keep regular track of your blood sugar readings to manage the condition better, Breathe Well-being is an excellent platform for you.
  • Break the fast instantly if a person experiences dizziness, extreme fatigue, nausea, or frequent urination signs. Taking to the doctor before restarting the fast is an important step.

Stay careful of the side effects. It might take some time to get familiar with the fasting schedule.

Read More: What Is Type 2 Diabetes Management?


Intermittent fasting has gained attention in recent years as a potential tool for managing and even reversing diabetes. However, practicing caution while approaching intermittent fasting is essential, especially for individuals taking diabetes medicines. Working closely with a registered dietitian or endocrinologist is crucial to ensure the safety and appropriate management of diabetes while incorporating intermittent fasting into routine.

Regardless of the type of intermittent fasting a person with diabetes chooses to follow, they must never neglect the calorie count, food quality, carb value, and nutritional profile. Intermittent fasting may be a path to improved health and wellness. However, picking the fasting protocol that works best for you is crucial. Always discuss this with your doctor before you try intermittent fasting. If you wish to talk to a health expert regarding all such concerns, speak to our health coaches at Breathe Well-Being!!

Read More: HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1c) A1c Chart, Test, Levels, & Normal Range


Is Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes Safe?

No, there are some people who must keep away from trying intermittent fasting. These include children and teens below the age of 18 years. Females who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and individuals with type 1 diabetes must also refrain from doing intermittent fasting.


How Does Fasting affect Your Blood Sugars?

Although uncommon, a few individuals may experience elevated blood sugar levels. It occurs when a fasting individual experiences too much stress. A drastic blood glucose spike may also arise from having a high-carb diet after fasting hours.

For How Many Hours Should a Diabetic Fast?

There are many kinds of intermittent fasting schedules appropriate for people with diabetes. Some may include 16:8, 20:4, 12:12, in which the fasting hours are 16, 20, and 12. Yet, an individual with diabetes must not fast for over 24 hours.

How Long Does it Take for Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes to Reduce Blood Glucose Levels?

Nearly 3 to 6% of fasting blood glucose level gets lowered after 8 to 12 weeks of intermittent fasting. Yet, after 30 days of intermittent fasting, a person may observe a significant improvement in their blood glucose levels.

What are the Outcomes of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes?

If a diabetic person opts for the right intermittent fasting protocol, it may help stabilize their blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. Moreover, it is extremely beneficial for an overweight, diabetic person who wishes to lose weight.

Last Updated on by Dr. Damanjit Duggal 


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