(Natural News) It has long been established that unhealthy eating habits contribute to the growing number of lifestyle-related metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The worsening prevalence of these diseases have prompted health experts to turn to different dietary interventions in order to stem obesity. One such intervention is intermittent fasting (IF), which has gained significant popularity due in part to its alleged efficacy against excess weight.
An animal study published in the journal Cell Research has recently demonstrated that the intervention does have a positive effect on metabolism and overall weight. As part of the study, Canadian researchers used mice models that were classified into two groups: the intermittent fasting group and the controls. The IF group were fed with a standard diet for two consecutive days and then nothing the following day. However, the research team did not make any adjustment on the IF group’s calorie intake. The control group consumed the same number of calories throughout the study’s duration.
The results showed that mice in the IF group weighed less than those in the control group after 16 weeks. According to the researchers, the fasting intervention helped reduce fat build-up in the white adipose tissue by increasing the animals’ brown-like fat. The experts also observed that the fasting regimen helped stabilize the animals’ glucose and insulin systems. Similar effects were seen in as early as six weeks, the research team adds.
Further analysis revealed that the intervention triggered a specific immune reaction in fat cells. According to the research team, the fasting regimen activates certain types of white blood cells known as anti-inflammatory macrophages and prompts them to metabolize stored fats or lipids by generating heat. The scientists also noted that this effect occurs due to an increase in vascular growth factor (VEGF), which facilitate blood vessel formation and activate anti-inflammatory macrophage.
“Intermittent fasting without a reduction in calorie intake can be a preventative and therapeutic approach against obesity and metabolic disorders,” researcher Kyoung-Han Kim stated in Science Daily online.
“Strikingly, these fasting-stimulated changes in the growth of vascular cells and subsequent immune alterations occur even after a single cycle of 24-hour fasting, and are completely reversed when mice start eating again,” researcher Yun Hye Kim adds.
Human study demonstrates intermittent diet’s efficacy
The recent findings are reflective of a previous human study demonstrating the beneficial effects of intermittent diet on weight control. As part of the study, a team of researchers enrolled 47 obese men aged 30 to 50 years and divided them into two groups. One group underwent a 16-week diet that cut calorie intake by one-third. This group followed a cycle involving the strict diet plan for two weeks and then followed by a standard diet for another two weeks. On the other hand, the other group did not have any modifications in their calorie intake.
The findings have shown that participants in the intermittent diet group attained an average weight loss of 17.6 pounds after six months. Likewise, the research team observed that the participants gained less weight after the trial compared to the control group. The experts also inferred that the intermittent diet scheme might be more effective than continuous dieting in keeping excess weight at bay. (Related: Intermittent Fasting : Why Compressing Your Eating Schedule Sheds Stubborn Weight)
“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ – making weight loss harder to achieve. This ‘famine reaction’, a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available…While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss,” study leader Professor Nuala Byrne has stated in The Daily Telegraph online.