In mice and human cells, periodic cycles of fasting-like conditions appear to reprogram pancreas cells and restore insulin production.
Los Angeles, Calif., February 23, 2017 – A landmark study published today in Cell finds that providing mice with a temporary specifically formulated Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD™) promotes the growth of new insulin-producing pancreatic cells and reduces symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The study also examined pancreatic cell cultures from human type 1 diabetes patients, finding similar results.
In type 1 and late-stage type 2 diabetes, the pancreas loses insulin-producing beta cells, increasing instability in blood sugar levels. The study showed a remarkable reversal of diabetes in mice placed on the FMD for four days each week. They regained healthy insulin production, reduced insulin resistance, and demonstrated more stable levels of blood glucose—even in the later stages of the disease.
The research revealed that genes normally active in the developing pancreases of embryonic/fetal mice are reactivated in diabetic adult mice when cycling Fasting Mimicking Diets with normal diets. This increases production of the protein neurogenin-3 (Ngn3) and, as a result, promotes the creation of new, healthy insulin-producing beta (b) cells.
The researchers simulated type 1 diabetes in mice by administering high doses of the drug streptozotocin (STZ)— killing the insulin-producing b-cells—and studied mice with type 2 diabetes, characterized by insulin resistance and eventual loss of insulin production, which have a mutation in the gene Lepr. Both types of diabetes were reversed by FMD cycles. Researchers also examined pancreatic cell cultures from human donors and found that, in cells from type 1 diabetes patients, nutrients mimicking fasting also increased expression of the Ngn3 protein and insulin production. The results suggest that a Fasting Mimicking Diet could alleviate diabetes in humans.
A growing body of evidence published by the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology led by Professor Valter Longo indicates that the Fasting Mimicking Diet is beneficial. Last week, a study published by the same group in Science Translational Medicine demonstrated that FMD reduced risks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other age-related disease in human study participants who followed the FMD for just five days each month for three months. Prior studies on the diet have shown potential for alleviating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy for cancer treatments, and decreasing visceral fat.
“These findings warrant a larger FDA trial on the use of the Fasting Mimicking Diet to treat diabetes patients,” Longo said. “Hopefully, people with diabetes could one day be treated with an FDA-approved Fasting Mimicking Diet for a few days each month, eat a normal diet for the rest of the month, and see positive results in their ability to control their blood sugar by producing normal levels of insulin and improving insulin function.”
This study was funded by National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging grants AG20642, AG025135 and P01 AG034906 to Longo.