Scientists seeking to combat the current obesity crisis have made an important discovery: Intermittent fasting causes significant changes in both the gut and the brain, which could open the door to new options for maintain a healthy weight.
Chinese researchers studied 25 volunteers classified as obese over a 62-day period, during which they participated in an intermittent energy restriction (IER) program, a diet that involves careful control of calorie intake and fasting for certain periods of time. days.
Not only did study participants lose weight – 7.6 kilograms (16.8 pounds) or 7.8 percent of their body weight on average – but there was also evidence of changes in body activity. regions of the brain linked to obesity and in the creation of gut bacteria.
“Here we show that an IER diet changes the human brain-gut-microbiome axis,” says health researcher Qiang Zeng from the Second Medical Center and National Clinical Research Center for Geriatric Diseases in China.
“The changes observed in the gut microbiome and in the activity of addiction-related brain regions during and after weight loss are highly dynamic and coupled over time.”
At present, it is not clear what causes these changes, or whether the gut influences the brain or vice versa. However, we know that the gut and the brain are closely linked. Treating certain regions of the brain could therefore be a way to control food intake.
The changes in brain activity, spotted by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), were in regions known to be important in the regulation of appetite and addiction, including the inferior frontal orbital gyrus.
Additionally, changes in the gut microbiome, analyzed via stool samples and blood measurements, were linked to particular regions of the brain.
For example, bacteria Coprococcus comes And Eubacteria hallii were negatively associated with activity in the left inferior frontal orbital gyrus, an area involved in executive function, including our willingness to eat.
“The gut microbiome is thought to communicate with the brain in a complex, bidirectional way,” explains medical scientist Xiaoning Wang of the State Clinical Center of Geriatrics in China.
“The microbiome produces neurotransmitters and neurotoxins that reach the brain through nerves and the bloodstream. In turn, the brain controls eating behavior, while nutrients in our diet change the composition of the gut microbiome.”
It is estimated today that more than a billion people worldwide are obese, leading to an increased risk of developing a host of different health problems, from cancer to heart disease. Learning more about how our brains and guts depend on each other could make a huge difference in effectively preventing and reducing obesity.
“The next question to answer is the precise mechanism by which the gut microbiome and the brain communicate in obese people, including during weight loss,” says biomedical scientist Liming Wang of the Chinese Academy of Medicine. science.
“Which specific regions of the gut and brain microbiome are essential for successful weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight? »
The research was published in Frontiers of cellular and infectious microbiology.