Fasting before embarking on a new diet could help you get better results by boosting healthy bacteria in the gut, research finds
- Studied 71 people who were obese, diabetic and had high blood pressure
- Half went on a diet after five days fasting and five just did the diet
- Those who fasted lost more weight and had a lower blood pressure, data shows
Fasting for five days before starting a new diet can help kickstart the transformation of a person’s body, according to a new study.
The period of restricted intake causes significant changes to an individual’s immune system and gut microbiome, which enhances the benefits of weight loss.
In the study, the researchers showed that people who fast before starting a Mediterranean-style diet for three months lose more weight and have a lower BMI that those who do not, while also seeing their blood pressure drop.
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Fasting for five days before starting a new diet can help kickstart the transformation of a person’s body, according to a new study
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions. But in general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked with good health, including a healthier heart.
‘Switching to a healthy diet has a positive effect on blood pressure,’ says Andras Maifeld, lead author of the study from the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) in Berlin.
‘If the diet is preceded by a fast, this effect is intensified.’
Researchers from Germany recruited 71 people who suffer from metabolic syndrome — the name of the condition given to people who have diabetes, are obese and also have high blood pressure.
All were put on a diet plan called DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) by a team of experts for a three month period.
It is centred around the popular Mediterranean diet and includes fruit and vegetables, wholemeal products, nuts and pulses, fish and lean white meat.
But one half of the study participants were also instructed to fast for five days before starting the new regime.
The main finding, the researchers say, is the long-term impact the fasting has on lowering blood pressure from elevated levels.
Almost half (43 per cent) of people who were in the fasting cohort were able to reduce their medication which they were previously prescribed for high blood pressure. For the non-fasting group, this figure was just 17 per cent.
Those who fasted also lost more weight than people who did not fast but did the same diet.
BMI in the fasting group dropped from around 34 to 32 in three months – a statistically significant decline.
For the non-fasting group, there was no discernible difference to either metric.
Immune system response and the gut microbiome were closely monitored via blood tests and stool samples, respectively, as well as the people being regularly weighed.
The traditional Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. It is also abundant in healthy fats like olive oil. It contains moderate amounts of fish, white meat and some dairy, and very little sugar and red meat
It revealed that during fasting, the production of a beneficial gut bacteria which breaks down fibre to make anti-inflammatory chemicals is increased.
Other changes help reduce high blood pressure as the number of good bacteria multiply rapidly.
The researchers found that even after the five-day fasting window had ended and the person began eating solid foods again, the positive changes remained.
‘Body mass index, blood pressure and the need for antihypertensive medication remained lower in the long term among volunteers who started the healthy diet with a five-day fast,’ explains Dr Dominik Müller, co-author of the study.
Simply living with someone who is following a strict eating plan can help you drop the pounds
If one family member is on a diet, the people they live with will also lose weight, a study has found.
Spanish researchers followed 148 family members of people who had decided to strictly follow the Mediterranean diet.
Diet participants were enrolled in a study and received direct consultations as well as being encouraged to exercise, but their family members did not.
Despite this, the relatives — spouses, children, parents or siblings — lost an average of 1.25kg (2.75lbs) after one year and 4kg (8.8lbs) after 24 months.
The traditional Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. It is also abundant in healthy fats like olive oil.
It contains moderate amounts of fish, white meat and some dairy, and very little sugar and red meat.
In the study, Spanish researchers recruited 117 participants who were obese and at high risk of cardiovascular disease, and also kept tabs on their family.
Participants and their family were weighed before the dieter was put on a strict Mediterranean diet, as well as an exercise regime.
At the end of the year, the participants and their family members were weighed again.
The results revealed that the dieters themselves lost 5.10 kg (11lbs) in the first year, rising to 6.79 kg (15lbs) in the second year.
And despite not being on the plan themselves, their family members also lost an average of 1.25kg (2.75lbs) after one year and 4kg (8.8lbs) after 24 months.
The family members lost even more weight if they ate with the enrolled patient, or the patient was the one who did most of the cooking.