If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in ten Americans has diabetes, and one in three is likely to have prediabetes right now. Just by reading this book, you are taking a very important step forward in managing your health.
Having a doctor tell you that you have prediabetes, or Type 2 diabetes is almost like running a temperature greater than 100.4°F. It’s a sign that some aspect of your health is off balance, and if you don’t pay attention, it can become much worse, potentially leading to life-threatening complications. Not only is diabetes linked to other chronic health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, but it is also one of the most devastating underlying conditions related to intensifying infectious diseases.
Yet we know that even with diabetes, some days we feel better than other days. When we stop to think about it, those better days are typically the ones when we have slept well, ate nutritious foods, and even exercised. In the very same way, with these very same tools, anyone can learn how to control their diabetes, and possibly even reverse a diagnosis.
I’m on the forefront of circadian rhythm research, which is the science of our biological clocks. In my first book, The Circadian Code, I showed readers all over the world how every cell in the human body has a clock and keeps a schedule of when it is the optimal time for it to function. My research has fueled a whole new way of eating, which I call time-restricted eating (TRE), and is more commonly known as intermittent fasting (IF). Basically, my research shows that when it comes to weight loss, it’s not only what you eat that makes a difference.
To lose weight, it’s equally important to make good decisions about when you eat. My protocol not only works for weight loss; it also optimizes every cell in the body, including those that monitor blood glucose. If we nurture our circadian rhythm, it in turn nurtures our health. If you can control when you eat, you can reverse your prediabetes, manage your long-term or recently diagnosed Type 2 diabetes, and lose weight along the way. By doing so, you can also enhance every other aspect of your health.
How do I know all this? Just ask my mother.
Meet Mrs. Panda
I am lucky enough not to have prediabetes or diabetes—yet. However, I know that I have a high risk for developing diabetes and heart disease just by being from South Asia. For the past eight years, I have adopted an intermittent fasting lifestyle in which I try to eat within a fixed 10-hour window most days. This has helped me shed some extra weight. But the best results from intermittent fasting have been with my mother.
Seven years ago, my mother noticed the blood sugar numbers on her annual physical exams were creeping up. Over the next two years, her exams showed that her blood sugar was continuing to rise; in other words, she was approaching a diabetic state. Even though her doctor wasn’t really worried, she panicked because she knows the damage diabetes can cause. She had seen too many friends and relatives who ignored the early signs of the disease, and even after taking daily medications for years, they slowly developed heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and even dementia. My mother was also less than thrilled about the idea of living with diabetes, having to carefully monitor what she ate at every single meal.
When she first told me the news, we talked about her daily diet and exercise routine, because it is well known that the foods you eat and the amount you exercise can influence your blood sugar levels. Yet even though she was already doing everything right, the results weren’t adding up. As a vegetarian, she would eat more than the recommended portions of fruits and vegetables every day, and she would take a daily walk in the evenings. She was also fasting at least once a week for religious reasons, while on other days she ate dinner by 8:00 p.m. But I noticed occasionally, at least two or three times a week, she would have a cup of tea with sugar and milk around 9:00 p.m. if she visited any of our relatives; it was difficult for her to decline a late-night snack.
I knew from my previous research that by eliminating this occasional and seemingly benign late-night snacking, she may be able to see some improvements in her blood glucose. When I first told her this, she laughed at me. Besides, her doctor and other health professionals could not be convinced that these small late-night meals were the culprit, pushing her toward diabetes.
A few months later I convinced her to visit me in the United States. When she lived with me for the next several months, she adopted my stricter rule of no food after 6:00 p.m. In the morning, she ate her breakfast around 9:00 a.m. That pattern created a daily eating window of 9 hours. Over the next several weeks, she told me that she had never felt better. And when she returned to India and continued eating this way, her blood sugar levels declined to below a prediabetic level. After five months, her fasting blood glucose was hovering near a healthy range. Best of all, for the past five years, she’s been able to stay healthy and off all medications—just by keeping to the protocol.
Since then, I have repeated this experiment in more than a dozen clinical trials. My group has worked not only with patients who have prediabetes but also those suffering from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. We always find that those who can follow a 10-hour IF can substantially improve their health.
Let Your Clock Control Your Blood Sugar
Now it’s time to try this experiment together. You can be in complete control of your blood sugar by living in alignment with your circadian rhythm. Not only is it easy, but also every aspect of your health will get better. In this book, you’ll learn when to eat, when to exercise, when to sleep, when to work, and when to take your medications, if necessary. If this program sounds simple, that’s because it is.
Your doctor may tell you to eat less, exercise more, and stay away from sugar and carbohydrates. There is sufficient research to substantiate these recommendations. However, the problem is in the compliance. Experts know that to follow these recommendations, you have to count calories for every meal you eat, track and avoid the foods that are known to raise your blood sugar, and count how many miles you walk or run. If you can do this, great; many people with prediabetes or diabetes begin this type of program and see some benefits within a month or two. But more often than not, the regimen becomes too difficult to sustain for a long time. Even though these are good habits to form, they are too arduous. This is where my research on circadian rhythm and time-restricted eating is opening new avenues for treating diabetes.
Research on circadian rhythm has shown that blood glucose regulation is more complex than we had known before. When we eat, when we exercise, and how much or when we sleep have a big impact on our blood glucose. By following this program, you may achieve your goals without counting a single calorie.
Excerpted from The Circadian Diabetes Code by Satchin Panda, PhD. Copyright © 2021 by Satchin Panda, PhD. All rights reserved.