Losing weight by intermittent fasting can significantly alter brain activity for appetite and addiction, according to new research. MARTA LONGAS VIA PEXELS.
Losing weight by intermittent fasting can significantly alter brain activity for appetite and addiction, according to new research. MARTA LONGAS VIA PEXELS.

Losing weight by intermittent fasting can significantly alter brain activity for appetite and addiction, according to new research. MARTA LONGAS VIA PEXELS.



By Isobel Williams

The study shows that the diet known as intermittent energy restriction (IER) can drastically change your gut bacteria and brain activity. This involves days of relative fasting alternated with days of eating normally, and participants saw an average weight loss of over 7.5 kilos in two months.

 

After IER, participants were seen to have decreases in the activity of brain regions implicated in the regulation of appetite and addiction. There was also an increase in abundance of certain gut bacteria that can help with attention, motor inhibition, emotion, and learning.

 

 “Here we show that an IER diet changes the human brain-gut-microbiome axis. The observed changes in the gut microbiome and in the activity in addition-related brain regions during and after weight loss are highly dynamic and coupled over time,” said Dr. Qiang Zeng from the Health Management Institute in Beijing.

 

To get their results the team studied stool samples from 25 obese Chinese women and men on an IER diet. First, the participants underwent a ‘high-controlled fasting phase’ of 32 days where they received personalized meals designed by a dietician, with a caloric value decreasing stepwise to one quarter of their basic energy intake.

 

They then spent 30 days in a ‘low-controlled fasting phase,” where they were given a list of recommended foods. Participants who adhered perfectly to this diet would receive 500 calories per day for women and 600 calories per day for men. By the end of the study, their body weight had decreased by an average of 7.6kg, with reductions in body fat and waist circumference.

 

Other noticeable effects were a decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol as well as changes to brain activity and the gut microbiome. The results, published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, also suggest that IER helps to reduce obesity-related issues such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and liver dysfunction. However, there were also changes to the gut bacteria that may have negative side effects on executive function, including our will to lose weight.

 

“A healthy, balanced gut microbiome is critical for energy homeostasis and maintaining normal weight. In contrast, an abnormal gut microbiome can change our eating behavior by affecting certain brain area involved in addiction,” said Dr. Yongli Li also from the Department of Health Management.

 

“The next question to be answered is the precise mechanism by which the gut microbiome and the brain communicate in obese people, including during weight loss. What specific gut microbiome and brain regions are critical for successful weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight?” said Dr. Liming Wang of the Institute of Microbiology, Beijing.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker