Restricting eating to 10 hours a day is beneficial for glucose levels in diabetes patients

Time-restricted Eating (TRE), also known as a form of intermittent fasting, is a new strategy that limits the period of food intake, and maintains a regular cycle of eating during the day followed by a prolonged period of fasting in the evening and at night. Recent research by Patrick Schrauwen and Charlotte Andriessen (both working at Maastricht University) shows that adults with type 2 diabetes do indeed benefit from a maximum food intake period of ten hours a day, at least in relation to lowering their blood sugar. The results are published in the scientific journal Diabetologia.


The researchers recruited 14 people with type 2 diabetes, aged between 50 and 75 (seven men, seven women, average age 67.5 years) and body mass index (BMI) ≥ 25 kg/m2. The study comprised two three-week intervention periods, TRE and control (CON), separated by a period of at least four weeks. The volunteers’ body weight was measured at the start of each intervention, and the participants were also fitted with a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device, which measures blood sugar every 15 minutes. Volunteers were asked to maintain their normal sleep patterns and physical activity, and not to alter their food intake during the study. At the end of each period, participants came to the university for measurements to be made of their insulin sensitivity, liver glucose stores and metabolism. Although no improvement in insulin sensitivity was found, the measurements did show a positive effect on blood sugar levels, says Professor Patrick Schrauwen: ‘We found that blood sugar, measured over multiple 24-hour periods, was consistently lowered by TRE, and was also a quite a lot lower at night.’


During TRE, participants were instructed to consume their normal diet within a ten-hour period during the day and not to eat or drink anything after 18.00 (except water, or tea or coffee without milk). During CON, volunteers were only required to spread their normal food intake over at least 14 hours, without further restrictions. ‘Our study shows that TRE is a safe and achievable way to improve sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes,’ says Charlotte Andriessen. ‘The research showed no changes in insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial function or metabolism. More studies over a longer period are therefore needed to determine exactly how blood sugar is lowered and whether there are also other beneficial health effects in the longer term.’