Vegan Fasting And Modified DASH Diet Alter Gut Microbiome
What researchers are saying:
New research has found that coupling modified DASH diet recommendations with a vegan-based fasting period increases beneficial gut bacteria, boosts immunity, and lowers blood pressure (along with other health benefits) in metabolic syndrome patients.
People have long tried various diets only to fall short of complying and achieving their fitness goals. However, a new study, based on a comprehensive analysis of the body’s gut and immune system, may have found the diet that will work for you.
Why does it matter?
The current Western diet consists mainly of whatever you can find in fast-food restaurants and heavily processed meals. It may taste good, but research has proven that it worsens many diseases, including:
- metabolic syndrome
Many popular diets, such as intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and paleo, have pitfalls. People who struggle with their restrictions fall back into eating unhealthy fast and processed foods and having “cheat days.”
However, the primarily plant-based DASH diet recommendations are both easier to comply with and beneficial over the long term.
What are the DASH diet recommendations?
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” but the DASH diet recommendations pay off for anyone searching for a healthier lifestyle.
Like many diets, it involves creating a plan and hitting your self-determined goals, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
The DASH diet recommendations allow up to 2,000 calories a day from mainly plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains). They limit but don’t eliminate meat and sugar.
Many doctors suggest this diet to patients with hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and kidney disease. But it’s effective for anyone wanting a decreased risk of all those conditions – and gout as well!
The study came from a team headed by researchers at Germany’s Universitätsmedizin Berlin’s Experimental and Clinical Research Center and published by Nature Communications on March 30, 2021.
Its participants had metabolic syndrome, a disease defined as having three or more conditions that raise heart disease and stroke risk.
The conditions are low “good” (HDL) cholesterol and high blood pressure, “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar.
The participants who underwent five days of vegan-based fasting followed by four months of a modified DASH diet experienced significantly more positive outcomes than those who followed the standard DASH diet recommendations.
The randomized-controlled, bi-centric trial split the participants into two groups. Both participated in at least 50 hours of group-based behavioral education.
The education, designed by the Benson-Henry Mind/Body Medical Institute of Harvard Medical School, included dietary counseling, lectures, and cooking classes.
Group 1 followed the standard DASH diet.
Group 2 started with two days on a calorie-restricted vegan diet (1,200 kcal/day) and then went to:
- Five days on a liquid fast of vegetable juices and vegetable broth (300-350 kcal/day).
- Followed by ten weeks on a modified DASH diet “with additional emphasis on plant-based and Mediterranean diets.”
Most DASH diet participants experienced no change in immunity and no immediate improvement in blood pressure.
However, the subjects who followed the vegan-based fast with four months of modified DASH diet recommendations showed more rapid and significant improvement in:
- blood pressures
- body weights
- immune systems
and even their body mass indexes (BMI)!
When subjects were checked 3 months after the study was completed, the vegan-based fasting group continued to show incredible benefits over the DASH-only group.
For example, they experienced a 43% decrease in those needing high blood pressure meds – a two and a half times bigger drop in hypertension drugs than the DASH-only group.
More importantly, their gut microbiomes’ bacteria colonies that are linked to cardiovascular health also grew. These non-infectious, good bacteria help the intestines digest food and send chemical signals throughout the body.
Some people call our gut a second brain because of the numerous survival-essential tasks it carries out. The microbes living within it affect a wide range of bodily functions, even our moods!
That’s why eating for a healthy body is eating for a happy body.
So many factors affect our gut bacteria that scientific research has yet to determine precisely how they work.
What we do know is that from the moment we’re born, we’re exposed to beneficial microorganisms. They work hard to defend us from harmful bacteria and dietary toxins.
The German study places a particular focus on short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producing bacteria. These acids boost immunity and normalize glucose and cholesterol levels. They also provide the body with 10 percent of its required calories. They’re practically a free energy source!
And as it turns out, following a short vegan-based fasting period with dash diet recommendations modified to emphasize more plant-based foods increases our SCFA-producing bacteria. Our blood pressure and immunity both benefit!
This study was the first of its kind to thoroughly document the human gut bacteria’s and immune cells’ responses to the diets of metabolic syndrome patients.
It could jumpstart additional research comparing the health effects of plant-based and current Western diets.
So, when choosing your next diet, why not try one that research shows are both easy to follow and beneficial for your body over the long term?
Because a healthy life starts with healthy decisions!