Weight Loss: How Intermittent Energy Restriction Diet Can Help

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Experts say that it is important to stay hydrated while following the diet plan. Alexander Mueck/Getty Images
  • A new study finds that a diet known as intermittent energy restriction (IER) not only aids weight loss but also positively alters the gut microbiome and brain activity.
  • The results show that IER causes decreased activity in brain regions involved in the regulation of appetite and addiction.
  • It may also help with attention, motor inhibition, emotion, learning, and willpower.
  • However, experts say IER isn’t for everyone, especially people with types 1 and 2 diabetes or a history of disordered eating.

New research has shown that losing weight through a diet called intermittent energy restriction (IER) causes significant changes in the gut microbiome and improves brain activity.

In turn, this may also help people in their weight loss efforts.

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

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

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

During the study, participants went through a highly-controlled fasting phase for 32 days, where they reduced their calorie intake to one-quarter of their original energy intake. They then spent 30 days in a less controlled fasting phase.

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

Meanwhile, the abundance of the gut bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Parabacteroides distasonis, and Bacteroles uniformis increased rapidly, while Escherichia coli (E. coli) declined.

Why is that important? The researchers reported that the abundance of dystonias and flavoniferous ploidy had a positive correlation with brain regions associated with attention, motor inhibition, emotion and learning.

Meanwhile, E. coli, which decreased significantly, was negatively associated with areas of the brain known to play a key role in executive functions, including the desire to lose weight.

Rima Patel, a London-based dietitian at Dietitians Fit, said she was not surprised by the significant weight and body fat percentage reductions 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 said the effects of diet on the gut and brain are fascinating.

Patel tells Healthline that interestingly, there was a change in the abundance of specific types of gut bacteria, as well as an increase in those that support the brain in learning and emotions and those that influence our desire to lose weight. There has been a reduction in some bacteria.

Although the mechanisms are not clear, it is surprising to see how much restriction in food intake can affect certain activities in the brain, he said.

For Sas Prasad, nutritionist and founder of The Gut Company, the results of this study align with the evolving understanding of the complex relationship between the gut, the brain, and weight management.

Although this is not entirely surprising given the emerging body of research in this area, this study adds valuable insight into how lifestyle interventions, such as IER, may modulate synchronous changes in the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Prasad, who was not involved in the study. , told Healthline.

You may be wondering why weight loss through IER has this effect.

The first thing to know is that there is a bidirectional communication link Between the gut and the 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 the activities within the gut, the gut is also responsible for our mood and cognition.

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

Meanwhile, the gut microbiome, sensitive to changes in dietary patterns, responds to fluctuations in nutrient availability.

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

This bidirectional communication leads to adjustments in brain regions related to appetite regulation, motivation and addiction, creating a synchronized response on the brain-gut-microbiome axis, Parsad said.

One hormone in particular that may be affected is serotonin. Patel says it’s known to control appetite and promote good mood, although more research is needed.

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

Prasad recommends starting slowly.

He suggests starting with a shorter fasting period and gradually increasing it over time. This helps the body adjust to changes in nutrient availability.

It is important to choose nutrient-rich foods to ensure that your body also receives the necessary vitamins and minerals. Prasad says you’ll want to include plenty of protein to support muscle health and satiety. Staying hydrated is also important.

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

He recommends paying attention to hunger cues and adjusting the duration and intensity of the fast based on personal comfort and tolerance.

One word of warning, though. Patel says there’s a risk of nutrient deficiencies if your IER diet isn’t properly planned, so it’s probably best to consult a professional before getting started.

Additionally, this style of eating may not work for people with certain medical conditions like type 1 or 2 diabetes, especially those that require taking medication at certain times of the day with meals, Patel said.

People with a history of disordered eating should also avoid the diet, he said.

This new study shows that losing weight may also benefit the gut and the brain.

IER won’t be for everyone, but for some people it can be an effective weight loss tool.

It may also have positive effects on appetite regulation, willpower and emotion.

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Image Source : www.healthline.com

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