Health & Wellness

Intermittent Fasting Vs. Calorie Counting: Which Works Better for Type 2 Diabetes Patients?



  • New research demonstrates the benefits of time-restricted eating for type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight loss and blood sugar improvement are evident in both time-restricted and calorie-counting groups.
  • Experts weigh in on the larger debate surrounding time-restricted eating.

The Recent Findings

In a recent randomized clinical trial, 75 individuals with type 2 diabetes were observed for six months. Results showcased that those who adhered to a time-restricted diet not only experienced belly fat reduction but also saw significant improvements in their blood sugar levels. These improvements were comparable to another group that maintained a calorie-counting regimen.

Key Takeaways:

  • Time-restricted eaters showed a 3.6% weight loss, compared to a 1.8% loss from calorie counters.
  • Both groups saw a nearly identical reduction in A1C levels, with a decrease of 0.9%. An A1C level below 6.5 signifies diabetes remission.
  • Equal amounts of dangerous visceral belly fat were shed by both groups.
  • A unique feature of the time-restricted diet was that participants were not bound by calorie limits within their 8-hour eating window. Despite this, they reduced their intake by around 300 calories per day.
  • Calorie counters, tasked with a 500-calorie daily reduction, often found the process cumbersome and usually achieved only a 200-calorie cut.

Discover more about the study here.

Expert Perspectives

The effectiveness of time-restricted eating has been a topic of contention among experts. While Professor Krista Varady of the University of Illinois Chicago underscores its potential benefits for those weary of counting calories, other specialists argue its advantages stem mainly from the resultant calorie reduction and weight loss.

Dr. David Katz, president of the nonprofit True Health Initiative, remarked that time-restricted eating is merely a tactic, not a metabolic magic bullet. Additionally, a 2022 study involving 139 obese Chinese participants found no distinction between time-restricted eating and calorie control concerning body fat, metabolic risk factors, or weight.

Dr. Ethan Weiss of the University of California, San Francisco, who initially adopted time-restricted eating himself, ceased after a study he conducted found no benefits for weight loss or heart health. He opines that while the recent study was well-executed, there’s no definitive answer on time-restricted eating’s supremacy over calorie counting.

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Affecting 1 in 10 Americans, type 2 diabetes occurs when body cells resist insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. This can usher in severe complications like vision impairment, kidney damage, and heart disease. Predictions suggest that by 2050, this number could soar to 1 in 3.

Intermittent Fasting: An Alternative Approach

Time-restricted eating, often equated with intermittent fasting, involves consuming all daily food within an 8-hour window, followed by fasting. Professor Varady explains that this approach invariably reduces calorie intake due to the shortened eating window, leading to weight loss. For many, this method might be more feasible than continuously monitoring caloric intake. However, she emphasizes the need for those with type 2 diabetes to consult their doctors before starting such a regimen due to potential medication adjustments.

Adverse Effects and Considerations

Like all diets, both time-restricted eating and calorie counting come with their unique sets of challenges and potential side effects. Participants in some studies have reported temporary headaches or constipation when starting intermittent fasting. Such symptoms often diminish after the initial weeks, especially with adequate hydration.

Furthermore, individuals with type 2 diabetes must remain vigilant about possible hypoglycemic episodes, particularly during fasting periods. Professor Varady mentioned the risk of low blood sugar, which depends largely on the prescribed diabetes medications, such as insulin and sulfonylureas.


Both time-restricted eating and calorie counting offer benefits for weight loss and blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes patients. However, choosing the most suitable method depends on individual preferences and lifestyles. Before initiating any diet, especially for those with medical conditions, it’s imperative to seek professional guidance and ensure it aligns with their specific health needs and goals.

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