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Being overweight is a health risk you shouldn’t ignore. Being overweight or obese escalates the likelihood that you’ll develop type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure and suffer a heart attack or stroke.
There is so much information about weight loss out there, it can be hard to figure out what plan is best for you, especially when you have health concerns.
But if high blood pressure is your main concern, a new study has found that those who need to change their eating habits to normalize their blood pressure should take a pre-diet step… and start with a fast.
Stick with me here. Because not only does it ramp up the health benefits of a healthy diet once the short fast is over — but the improvements last!
If you’d like to lose weight, get control of your blood pressure and even cut down or eliminate BP medication — like these study participants did — read on…
Fast, then diet for best results
“Switching to a healthy diet has a positive effect on blood pressure. If the diet is preceded by a fast, this effect is intensified.”
This is the advice Dr. Andras Maifeld has for people with metabolic syndrome.
Dr. Maifeld is a German researcher and lead author of a research study that explains why fasting before switching to a healthy diet can help you lose weight and experience improved health effects that last.
A team of twenty-two German researchers recruited 71 volunteers who had both metabolic syndrome and elevated systolic blood pressure (the top number, representing the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats).
The researchers divided the volunteers into two groups at random.
Both groups followed the DASH diet (a Mediterranean-style diet that includes fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and pulses, fish and lean white meat) for three months. One of the two groups did not consume any solid food at all for five days before starting the DASH diet — and here’s what happened…
Fasting kick-starts diet benefits
The researchers took stool samples from the group that fasted for five days before starting the diet to examine the effects of the fast on the gut microbiome.
They saw that the composition of the gut bacteria ecosystem changes drastically during fasting. Health-promoting bacteria that help to reduce blood pressure multiply, including bacteria that metabolize dietary fiber into anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids that benefit the immune system.
In fact, some of these changes remain even after resuming solid food intake. According to researcher Dominik Müller, “Body mass index, blood pressure and the need for antihypertensive medication remained lower in the long term among volunteers who started the healthy diet with a five-day fast.”
How to start fasting
If you’ve been discouraged with your past results, even after sticking to a healthy diet for some time, the problem could be a lack of the right bacteria in your gut. Specifically, bacteria that break down dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which protect against inflammation and aid weight loss.
That’s why so many of us give up…
“Those who have this problem often feel that it is not worth the effort and go back to their old habits,” says Dr. Sofia Forslund, one of the head researchers of this study.
But instead of giving up, jumpstart your healthy diet with a fast.
“Fasting acts as a catalyst for protective microorganisms in the gut. Health clearly improves very quickly and patients can cut back on their medication or even often stop taking tablets altogether.”
Fasting doesn’t always mean you give up food completely. The people in this study that fasted gave up solid food for five days. That means you could consume soup broths, nutritional powder drinks or juice fruits and vegetables to help quell your hunger pangs.
Previous studies have shown many health benefits associated with different types of fasting:
Intermittent fasting can reverse type 2 diabetes.
Fasting also reduces the number of inflammatory cells in the blood.
And, if fasting still feels too extreme for you, try the fast-mimicking diet.
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Fasting can be an effective way to start a diet — Science Daily