The Role of Fasting to Increase the Health Benefits of The DASH Diet
To promote the healthiest version of you a whole diet approach is the best strategy. A whole diet approach gives your body a variety of nutrients and health promoting factors that no one single food can provide. This is true for creating and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. The variety of foods in your diet is a key factor and is why it is recommended to include thirty different plant foods each week.
New research now adds another component which may enhance the positive effects of following the DASH diet. Fasting may provide additional health promises seen in the already health promoting diet called the DASH diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (DASH diet) was originally developed to help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet includes eating nine to ten servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Also, plenty of whole grains like rice, couscous & quinoa, or whole grain contain foods like whole grain pasta, bread, crackers, or Corn Thins slices. Also, plenty of legumes and beans, nuts, and seeds. As well as dairy and moderate amounts of seafood and white meat like chicken and turkey. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet limits red and processed meats as well as sweetened beverages and sodium.
Metabolic Syndrome is when you have been diagnosed with three or more of the five risk factors which increase your risk of health conditions such as stroke, diabetes, or heart disease. The five risk factors are high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels in your blood and low levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
The effects of fasting on health outcomes including gut microbiome changes were assessed in seventy-one people with metabolic syndrome. The study was a twelve-week randomized control trial which randomly placed the people into one of two groups. The first was a fasting group which was made up of twelve men and twenty-three women. The second group was a control group made up of fifteen men and twenty-one women.
The control group followed the DASH diet for the twelve weeks of the study. The fasting group on the other hand began with a fasting mimicking diet of two days consuming one thousand two hundred calories, then five days of equal or less than three hundred and fifty calories a day. The remaining eleven weeks the fasting group followed the DASH diet.
The researchers found that the fasting group had a greater reduction in body weight, body mass index, and systolic blood pressure over a twenty-four-hour period. Systolic blood pressure is the blood pressure when your heart contacts. In addition, the need for high blood pressure medication was lower after the twelve-week study period.
Both the gut microbiome and the immune system function was altered in both the control and fasting group. However, the fasting group saw changes in their gut microbiome which led to greater positive changes in blood pressure levels.
Take home message: This study suggests that those who have metabolic syndrome may benefit from following a fasting period prior to beginning the DASH diet to see more health promoting outcomes.
- Maifeld A, Bartolomaeus H, Löber U, Avery EG, Steckhan N, Markó L, Wilck N, Hamad I, Šušnjar U, Mähler A, Hohmann C, Chen CY, Cramer H, Dobos G, Lesker TR, Strowig T, Dechend R, Bzdok D, Kleinewietfeld M, Michalsen A, Müller DN, Forslund SK. Fasting alters the gut microbiome reducing blood pressure and body weight in metabolic syndrome patients. Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 30;12(1):1970. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22097-0. PMID: 33785752; PMCID: PMC8010079.
- What is Metabolic Syndrome. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/metabolic-syndrome/about-metabolic-syndrome