Can Fasting Kick-start a Healthy Eating Plan?

Kicking off a new diet regimen with a period of fasting could increase the health benefits, according to a study published March 30 in Nature Communications. Researchers from the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin looked at 71 volunteers with metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure as they embarked on a three month diet. All the participants followed the DASH diet, designed to improve blood pressure by focusing on produce, whole grains, and lean meats. Half the group started their diet with a five day fasting period of no solid food.

The researchers found that while participants did benefit from the diet, the fasting group saw more positive results for their body weight and blood pressure than their non-fasting peers. The positive effects of fasting were maintained even at the end of the three month diet. “Switching to a healthy diet has a positive effect on blood pressure,” Andras Maifeld, first author of the study and a researcher at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center in Berlin, said in a press release. “If the diet is preceded by a fast, this effect is intensified.”

Fasting may improve the gut microbiome:  The study found that fasting dramatically changed the gut microbiome, the bacteria that live in the digestive system. Beneficial types of bacteria, associated with lower blood pressure, multiplied during the fast, the researchers found.

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