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Fasting can Reduce Cholesterol Levels in People with Prediabetes

Update Date: Jun 14, 2014 01:31 PM EDT
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Prediabetes occurs when people's blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered full-blown Type 2 diabetes. People with this condition have a high risk of developing diabetes especially if they do not take preventive measures. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of fasting on prediabetics' cholesterol levels and found that fasting for an extended period of time can reduce their levels of bad cholesterol.

"Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention," stated the study's lead investigator, Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. "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."

For this study, the team from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center located in Murray, UT, measured prediabetic participants' low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. The participants were between the ages of 30 and 69. They had at least three metabolic risk factors. The researchers found that fasting for 10 to 12 hours straight led to a decrease in LDL levels. The researchers noted that without food, the body starts to source energy and ends up taking LDL cholesterol from fat cells.

In a previous study, the team had examined the effects of fasting on healthy people during the daytime. They discovered that routine fasting resulted in reduced glucose levels and weight loss.

"During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly in this study, as it did in our prior study of healthy people, but we did notice that over a six-week period cholesterol levels decreased by about 12 percent in addition to the weight loss," said Dr. Horne. "Because we expect that the cholesterol was used for energy during the fasting episodes and likely came from fat cells, this leads us to believe fasting may be an effective diabetes intervention. The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by fasting."

The researchers added that more studies should be conducted to examine the potential health benefits of fasting. The study was presented at the 2014 American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Francisco, CA.

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