Is One Meal A Day Good For Diabetes?


picture of a doctor

I see a lot of confusion around eating one meal a day so in this article, I will show you some scientific evidence about OMAD and its impact on type 2 diabates.

One meal a day is effective for people with type 2 diabetes. According to research, the therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes can be an alternative to insulin and reverse their insulin resistance.

A small case study from Toronto demonstrated exciting results for people with type 2 diabetes (source). During 7-11 months intermittent fasting protocol, on average, everyone lost 20 lb, and 2 out of 3 patients stopped taking diabetic medications.

More on that in a moment.

Can Diabetics Eat One Meal A Day?

Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes can benefit from eating one meal a day. After a period of fasting, insulin sensitivity rises and insulin levels fall. This process lowers insulin resistance which is the most prominent feature of type 2 diabetes.

One meal a day (a form of intermittent fasting) is increasing in popularity in favor of losing weight and controlling some chronic illnesses. Around 10% of the population in the United States are living with diabetes.

Unfortunately, specific medical guidelines on how to safely perform therapeutic intermittent fasting for people with diabetes are non-existent. Plus, there are only a handful of case reports and just one randomized trial on this topic (source).

In the study done in Toronto, three volunteers, who been struggling with type 2 diabetes for 10 – 25 years, undergone a 7-11 months long intermittent fasting routine. On average, every patient was taking 70 units of insulin daily.

The first patient was a 40-year-old man, who apart from type 2 diabetes was also diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He was on 4 different diabetic medications (source).

The second patient was a 52-year-old man, who also apart from type 2 diabetes was struggling with chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. He was on one diabetic medication (source).

The third patient was a 67-year-old man who on top of type 2 diabetes struggled with blood pressure and cholesterol. He was talking about 2 different medications (source).

patients before fasting
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The protocol of fasting consisted of alternating-day 24-hour fast and triweekly 24-hour fasts.

This means, on fasting days patients only consume dinner (one meal a day), and on non-fasting days patients eat two meals a day (dinner and lunch).

All of the patients were doing intermittent fasting for the very first time. Every single one reported high tolerance for fasting without difficulty. Some even said they felt ‘excellent’, “terrific” and “easy” during the fasting days.

Within the first few weeks, all patients were able to completely eliminate or significantly reduce their medications. On average, they were able to reduce their weight to -10kg (22lb), and waist circumference to -15.3 cm.

picture after fasting
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Apart from being able to discontinue their insulin, other health biomarkers improved like hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) levels, without any signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

This is exciting news for many people who are in a similar situation where they would love to get their health back, feel better and maybe even stop taking medications.

Some of the medications, like metformin, are proven to have great health benefits and can reduce diabetes mortality and complications by thirty percent (source).

However, they do comes with a side effect, especially if are taken for 10 or even 20 plus years. Some of the most common side effects of metformin are dizziness, muscle pain, tiredness, chills, slow/irregular heartbeat, stomach pain with diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting (source).

Will Eating One Meal A Day Reverse Diabetes?

Few small human studies are showing that one meal a day can induce weight loss and reduce insulin requirements. However, the vast majority of information to date about intermittent fasting is based on animal studies.

So it’s not quite understandable if the health benefits are due to general caloric restriction and weight reduction, or is that due to fasting.

Another exciting study documented a 52-year-old man with a history of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure who requested “deprescribing” some of his medications because he believed they caused him bloating, abdominal pains, and erratic motions for more than a year (source).

He was a professional driver doing 12 000 miles each year. So that became an alarming problem. He went ahead and asked his physician could he cut down on his medicine because he believed that was the cause of the problem.

picture before fasting
Source

7 months later after caloric restriction that involved occasional intermittent fasting, the patient lost 16 kg and was able to completely discontinue all his medications.

Also, the reduction in weight enabled him to be more physically active. This means he was exercising more, he joined a gym and started doing yoga classes. His main focus was on low-carbohydrate foods and intermittent fasting (source).

results after fasting
Source

This case was documented by David Unwin, a General Practitioner in Southport, Lancashire, and Dr. Simon Tobin from Norwood Surgery in Southport.

Patient was living with diabetes for 14 years.

Another clinical trial done by Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) showed that after 12-months of calorie restriction intervention, almost half of participants achieved remission to a non-diabetic state and were able to get off antidiabetic medications (source).

Unfortunately, to date, there are very few published studies that can clearly demonstrate the use of intermittent fasting as a “cure” for type 2 diabetes.

Most of the studies are done on rodents, and of course, it’s hard to draw a conclusion based on animal studies.

Can Eating One Meal A Day Cause Diabetes?

There is no evidence that eating one meal a day can cause diabetes. Occasional intermittent fasting has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, and reduce excess weight.

However, it is not clear if intermittent fasting or simple calorie restriction is the main driver behind those results.

The only problem with doing one meal a day without supervision is that people are not used to hunger and are more prone to overeating after they fast.

In other words, many people compensate for skipping meals by eating more on their non-fasting days. A lot more.

The Difference Between Hunger and Appetite

Many people can’t tell the difference between hunger and appetite. Especially, if someone has been dieting on and off for several years. Or, if someone is using food as a coping mechanism from stress.

Psychological hunger is wanting to eat signals. This can be triggered simply by food presence, smell, or attractive appearance.

That also can be triggered by any unwanted emotions. And if someone is been using food to mask and mute any negative feelings, the moment you take away those foods, they have to start coping with those emotions, somehow in a different way.

For most people who eat to feel better, that’s a novelty.

So the reason why people freak out and compensate by overeating is simply they are not used to handling those uncomfortable situations without food.

Hunger and Satiety Hormones

Another thing is that some people may be prone to hormonal fluctuations after doing intermittent fasting. In some people, IF increases the production of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and lowers the production of leptin (the satiety hormone).

This means when it’s time to eat, during non-fasting days, they eat more because it’s harder (or it takes longer) for them to feel satisfied.

Take Away

One meal a day has been show to help people with type 2 diabetes in reducing insulin resistance, reducing excess weight and helping with becoming medication-free.

There are number of other benefits that occur during the extended caloric restriction.

It is not clear if the results are due to simple caloric restriction (eating less food) or due to fasting.

Some people may have experienced overeating episodes on their non-fasting days. The easy way to fix that is to either consult with a general practitioner or use some methods and tools that help with improving self-awareness of how does the hunger feels.

Go Further with OMAD

This article is part of the 20 OMAD Benefits (Based on new research).

In the following articles, I show you everything there is to know about the most current research on intermittent fasting and the benefits of doing one meal a day.

Learn more: Click here to read the article about will I lose muscle on omad.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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