Metabolic Syndrome: Fasting Before Dieting
The blood pressure of millions of people in Germany is too high. In many cases, high blood pressure (hypertension) can be successfully combated by changing your diet. Diets can help with this. These are even more effective if they are preceded by a fast.
If you have to change your diet in order to normalize your blood pressure, you should start with a fast, writes the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in a recent press release. This enables patients to improve their state of health in the long term, explain scientists from the MDC and the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) in the journal “Nature Communications”.
Risk factors for serious medical conditions
Every fourth person in Germany suffers from metabolic syndrome. In this “fatal quartet”, several diseases of the affluent occur at the same time: obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), lipid metabolism disorder and diabetes mellitus.
Each of these diseases is considered a risk factor for serious diseases of the cardiovascular system, for example heart attacks or strokes.
Treatment is aimed at reducing weight, as well as normalizing fat and carbohydrate metabolism and blood pressure. In addition to regular exercise, doctors prescribe a low-calorie, healthy diet. In addition, drug treatment is often necessary.
What effects diet has on the microbiome, the immune system and thus on the state of health has not yet been fully clarified.
What a change in diet does
A research group led by Dr. Sofia Forslund and Professor Dominik N. Müller from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and from the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) – a joint institution of the MDC and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin – has now investigates the effects of dietary changes in people with metabolic syndrome.
“A switch to healthy eating has a positive effect on blood pressure,” says first author Andras Maifeld, summarizing the results. “If the diet is preceded by a fast, this effect is even increased.”
Nutritional approach to high blood pressure
71 subjects with metabolic syndrome and elevated systolic blood pressure were recruited for the study and randomly divided into two groups.
Both groups ate what is known as the DASH diet, the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension – a nutritional approach to high blood pressure for three months. This “Mediterranean diet” includes a lot of vegetables and fruit, whole grain products, nuts and legumes, fish and lean white meat. Participants in either group did not eat any solid food for five days before starting the DASH diet.
With the help of immunophenotyping, the scientists observed how the test subjects’ immune cells change during the change in diet.
“The innate immune system remains stable during fasting, while the adaptive immune system shuts down,” explains Maifeld. According to the experts, the number of inflammation-promoting T cells in particular decreases while regulatory T cells multiply.
Effects of fasting on the gut microbiome
The researchers also used stool samples to study the effects of fasting on the gut microbiome. According to the experts, the intestinal bacteria are in close contact with the immune system. For example, some strains of bacteria metabolize fiber into anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids that benefit the immune system.
The composition of the ecosystem of the intestinal bacteria changes greatly when food is avoided. In the process, health-promoting bacteria in particular multiply, which promotes lowering blood pressure. However, some of these changes persist even after re-feeding.
Particularly noteworthy: “In the test subjects who started a healthy diet with a five-day fast, the body mass index, blood pressure and the need for antihypertensive drugs remained permanently lower,” explains Dominik Müller.
Blood pressure usually spikes again immediately if the anti-hypertensive tablet is forgotten even once.
Maintain a healthier lifestyle permanently
To ensure that this positive effect was actually due to the fasting and not to the medication that the test subjects were taking, Forslund’s working group evaluated together with scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig and McGill University, Montreal, Canada statistically compute these results with the help of artificial intelligence.
The researchers also used methods from an earlier study in which they examined the influence of antihypertensive drugs on the microbiome. “In this way we were able to filter out the influence of the medication and see that it depends on the individual immune system and the intestinal microbiome whether or not someone responds well to a change in diet,” says Forslund.
If the success of a high-fiber, low-fat diet is a long time coming, it could be because there are too few intestinal bacteria in the intestinal microbiome that metabolize fiber into protective fatty acids.
“Those affected often have the feeling that all the effort is not worth it and fall back into old patterns,” says the scientist. It is therefore advisable to combine a diet with a fast.
“Fasting acts like a catalyst for the protective microorganisms in the intestine.” According to the expert, health improves visibly very quickly, patients “can reduce their medication or often do without tablets.” This could motivate them to take one Maintain a healthier lifestyle permanently. (ad)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
- Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC): Fasting acts as a diet catalyst, (accessed: March 30, 2021), Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)
- András Maifeld, Hendrik Bartolomaeus, Ulrike Löber, Ellen G. Avery, Nico Steckhan, Lajos Markó, Nicola Wilck, Ibrahim Hamad, Urša Šušnjar, Anja Mähler, Christoph Hohmann, Chia-Yu Chen, Holger Cramer, Gustav Dobos, Till Robin Lesker, Till Strowig, Ralf Dechend, Danilo Bzdok, Markus Kleinewietfeld, Andreas Michalsen, Dominik N. Müller & Sofia K. Forslund: Fasting alters the gut microbiome reducing blood pressure and body weight in metabolic syndrome patients; in: Nature Communications, (published: March 30, 2021), Nature Communications
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.