Weight loss: how an intermittent energy restriction diet can help

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Experts say staying hydrated is important when following a diet plan. Alexandr Muuc/Getty Images
  • New research has shown that a diet known as Intermittent Energy Restriction (IER) not only helps with weight loss, but positively changes the gut microbiome and brain function.
  • The results show that IER reduces the activity of brain regions involved in the regulation of appetite and addiction.
  • It can also help with attention, motor inhibition, emotions, learning and willpower.
  • However, experts say IER is not for everyone, especially people with type 1 and 2 diabetes or a history of eating disorders.

A new study reports that weight loss through a diet known as Intermittent Energy Restriction (IER) significantly alters the gut microbiome and improves brain function.

In turn, it can also help people’s weight loss efforts.

In their study, the researchers examined stool samples, blood measurements, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine how the gut microbiome and brain function changed in 25 Chinese men and women on the high-fat IER diet.

The participants were on average 27 years old, and their body mass index (BMI) ranged from 28 to 45.

Intermittent energy restriction means alternating between periods of calorie deficit and periods of eating maintenance calories.

During the study, participants experienced a well-controlled fasting phase for 32 days, during which they reduced their caloric intake by a quarter of their basal energy intake. They then spent 30 days in a poorly controlled fasting phase.

By the end of the study, the weight of the participants had dropped by an average of 7.6 kilograms, or about 7.8%. The authors said they also observed reduced activity in brain regions involved in regulating appetite and addiction.

At the same time, the abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Parabacteroides distasonis and Bacterokles uniformis in the gut increased sharply, while Escherichia coli (E. coli) decreased.

Why is it important? The researchers explained that the abundance of distasonis and Flavonifractor plautis positively correlated with brain regions associated with attention, motor inhibition, emotions and learning.

At the same time, E. coli, which was significantly reduced, was negatively associated with brain regions known to play a key role in executive function, including the desire to lose weight.

Dietitian Fit’s London-based nutritionist Reema Patel said she was not surprised by the significant reduction in weight and body fat percentage in this study.

Patel, who was not involved in the study, says this is to be expected given the level of calorie restriction. However, he added that the effect of diet on the gut and brain is fascinating.

What’s interesting is the change in the abundance of certain types of gut bacteria, with an increase in bacteria that support the brain, learning and emotions, and a decrease in certain bacteria that affect our desire to lose weight, Patel told Healthline.

Although the mechanisms are not clear, it is surprising to see how much restricting food intake can affect certain brain functions, he noted.

According to Sas Parsad, nutritionist and founder of The Gut Co, the results of this study align with the evolving understanding of the complex relationship between the gut, brain and weight management.

While not entirely surprising given the emerging body of research in the field, this study provides valuable insights into how lifestyle interventions such as IER can drive synchronized changes in the brain-gut-microbiome axis, said Parsad, who was not involved in the study. , reported Healthline.

You may be wondering why weight loss through IER seems to have this effect.

The first thing to know is that there is a two-way communication link between gut and brain. This basically means that the gut and the brain are in constant two-way communication with each other.

Patel says that just as the brain influences gut function, the gut also responds to our moods and cognitions.

When you fast, the body switches from using glucose as its primary energy source to metabolizing stored fats. Parsad says this change triggers a series of events, including changes in hormone levels and changes in neurotransmitter activity.

At the same time, the gut microbiome, which is sensitive to dietary changes, responds to changes in nutrient availability.

The resulting metabolic changes in the gut affect the production of signaling molecules that can affect the brain, Parsad explains.

This two-way communication leads to adjustments in brain regions involved in appetite regulation, motivation and addiction, creating a synchronized response along the brain-gut-microbiome axis, Parsad added.

One hormone that can be particularly affected is serotonin. Patel notes that it is known to regulate appetite and promote good mood, although more research is needed.

If you want to try IER yourself, how should you get started?

Parsad recommends starting gradually.

Start with shorter periods of fasting and gradually lengthen them over time, he suggests. This helps the body adapt to changes in nutrient availability.

It is important to choose nutritious foods so that your body also gets the necessary vitamins and minerals. Parsad says you’ll want to add plenty of protein to support muscle health and satiety. Taking care of hydration is also important.

Most importantly, Parsad says you should listen to your body.

Pay attention to signs of hunger and adjust the duration and intensity of fasting periods according to individual comfort and tolerance, he advises.

A word of caution though. Patel says there’s a risk of developing a nutrient deficiency if the IER diet isn’t designed properly, so it’s probably best to consult with a professional before starting.

Additionally, this style of eating may not work for those with certain conditions, such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes, especially if medication is needed at certain times of the day with meals, Patel noted.

He added that the diet should also be avoided by people who have had eating disorders.

This new study shows that losing weight can also benefit your gut and brain.

IER is not for everyone, but for some it can be an effective weight loss tool.

It can also have a positive effect on appetite regulation, willpower and emotions.

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Image Source : www.healthline.com

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