- Press Release Distribution

Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, weight management

Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, weight management
( A new study by researchers from Arizona State University and their colleagues highlights a dietary strategy for significant health improvement and weight management.

Participants following an intermittent fasting and protein-pacing regimen, which involves evenly spaced protein intake throughout the day, saw better gut health, weight loss and metabolic responses. These benefits were notably greater than those seen with simple calorie restriction.

The findings, reported today in the journal Nature Communications, could advance our understanding of the relationship between the gut microbiome and metabolism and improve strategies for managing obesity.

The researchers compared the effects of two low-calorie dietary interventions: a heart-healthy continuous calorie-restricted diet (based on USDA dietary recommendations), and a calorie-restricted regimen incorporating intermittent fasting and protein pacing.

The trial was conducted with 41 individuals who were overweight or obese over a period of eight weeks. Individuals in the intermittent fasting and protein-pacing group showed a decrease in symptoms of gastrointestinal problems and an increase in diversity of the gut microbiota compared with those in the calorie-restriction group.

The intermittent fasting protocol increased beneficial microbes in the gut that have been linked to a lean body type and improved overall health. Additionally, it increased the levels of certain proteins (cytokines) in the blood associated with weight loss, as well as amino acid byproducts that promote fat burning.

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. The method has recently gained popularity for its potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved metabolic health and enhanced brain function.

"Given the gut microbiota's location and its constant interaction with the GI tract, we have been gaining a deeper understanding of its pivotal role in dietary responses these last several years,” says Alex Mohr, lead author of the new study. “While limited in duration and sample size, this comprehensive investigation — which included the analysis of the gut microbiome, cytokines, fecal short-chain fatty acids and blood metabolites — underscores the intricate interplay between diet, host metabolism and microbial communities.”

Mohr led the microbiome and molecular investigations, evaluating gut microbial composition, inflammatory molecules called cytokines, SCFAs (metabolites derived from dietary fiber, important for regulating energy balance) and the metabolome.

Mohr is a researcher with the Biodesign Center for Health Through Microbiomes at ASU. Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, the center director, and researchers Devin Bowes, Karen Sweazea and Corrie Whisner are also contributors to the study.

Corresponding author Paul Anciero of the Department of Health and Human Physiological Sciences at Skidmore College led the clinical trial, which tracked weight loss and body composition.

The study also included contributions from ASU researchers Paniz Jasbi and Judith Klein-Seetharaman, with the School of Molecular Sciences, and Dorothy Sears and Haiwei Gu, with the College of Health Solutions.  

Diet, microbiome and weight loss

The gut microbiome refers to the diverse community of microorganisms residing in the gastrointestinal tract, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes. Numbering in the many trillions of organisms, this complex ecosystem plays a crucial role in essential bodily functions and overall health.

The gut microbiome helps break down food, produce vitamins and promote the absorption of nutrients. It plays a role in the development and function of the immune system by protecting the body against harmful pathogens. Finally, the gut microbiome keenly regulates metabolism,  impacting body weight, fat storage and insulin sensitivity.

Caloric restriction, intermittent fasting (limiting food consumption to certain windows on some days) and protein pacing (controlled protein intake at specific meals) have been shown to affect body weight and composition, but the effect of these dietary modifications on the gut microbiome has been unclear until now.

“A healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall health, particularly in managing obesity and metabolic diseases," says Sweazea, the ASU principal investigator of this Isagenix-funded study. “The gut bacteria influence how we store fat, balance glucose levels and respond to hormones that make us feel hungry or full. Disruptions in the gut microbiota can lead to increased inflammation, insulin resistance and weight gain, underscoring the critical role of gut health in preventing and managing metabolic disorders."

Study and findings

The clinical trial involved 27 female and 14 male participants who were overweight or obese.  Participants were divided into two groups: one following the intermittent fasting and protein pacing regimen, and the other adhering to a heart-healthy, calorie-restricted diet. Both groups were monitored over eight weeks for changes in weight, body composition, gut microbiome composition and plasma metabolomic signatures.

Participants following the intermittent fasting and protein pacing regimen experienced a significant reduction in gut symptoms and an increase in beneficial gut bacteria, particularly from the Christensenellaceae family. The study also found these microbes are associated with improved fat oxidation and metabolic health. In contrast, the calorie-restricted group showed an increase in metabolites linked to longevity-related pathways.

Despite both groups having similar average weekly energy intake, the intermittent fasting and protein pacing group achieved greater weight loss and fat reduction with an average loss of 8.81% of their initial body weights during the study. In comparison, those on a calorie-restricted diet lost an average of 5.4% body weight.

Participants who followed the intermittent fasting and protein-pacing diet experienced reductions in overall body fat, including belly fat and deep abdominal fat, and saw an increase in the percentage of lean body mass.

The study underscores the potential of intermittent fasting and protein-pacing diets in improving gut health and weight management. While further research is necessary, these findings offer a promising avenue for creating effective dietary interventions for obesity and related metabolic disorders.

“By identifying shifts in specific microbes, functional pathways and associated metabolites, this line of work holds promise for personalized health strategies as we can better tailor nutritional regimens to enhance gut function and metabolic outcomes," Mohr says.

Additional institutions contributing to the study: Systems Precision Engineering and Advanced Research (SPEAR); Center of Translational Science, Florida International University; Isagenix International LLC; and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh.


[Attachments] See images for this press release:
Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, weight management Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, weight management 2 Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, weight management 3


Scientists identify gene that could lead to resilient ‘pixie’ corn

Scientists identify gene that could lead to resilient ‘pixie’ corn
AMES, Iowa – A widely found gene in plants has been newly identified as a key transporter of a hormone that influences the size of corn. The discovery offers plant breeders a new tool to develop desirable dwarf varieties that could enhance the crop’s resilience and profitability.  A team of scientists led by Iowa State University spent years working to pinpoint the functions of the gene ZmPILS6. Now, they have been able to characterize it as an important driver of plant size and architecture, a carrier for an auxin hormone that helps govern growth in roots below ground and shoots, or stalks, above ground. Their findings were published in the Proceedings ...

Utilizing medical assistants to manage patient portal messages shown to support practice and physician efficiency

Many primary care clinicians directly receive messages from patients via electronic health records’ portal inboxes. The COVID-19 pandemic saw a rapid uptick in this trend. Data suggests that this additional work is linked to clinician burnout. Penn Family Care, a primary care group at Penn Medicine, instead routed incoming messages to certified medical assistants who had been taught how to distribute each message to the most appropriate physician. There was a 40% decrease in the number of messages going directly to primary care physicians, and both practice and clinician efficiency showed improvement after adopting this team-based care model. Utilizing Medical Assistants ...

Study shows clinic continuity associated with reduced hospital and emergency visits

Background and Goal: Relational continuity, the ongoing relationship between a patient and a family physician, is linked to better patient care, fewer unnecessary procedures, hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and lower costs, along with higher patient satisfaction. With the rise of part-time practices, patients often see multiple family physicians within the same clinic. This study aimed to explore how continuity in a primary care clinic—separate from individual physician continuity—affects patient ...

Recognizing the range of experiences among individuals of Latino, Hispanic, and/or Spanish origin is an essential step toward health equity

Background: Currently, people of Latiné/e/x/o/a, Hispanic, and/or Spanish (LHS) origin make up 19.1% of the population of the U.S. There is great variation in the personal experiences and family backgrounds of LHS individuals, including differences in country of origin, time in the U.S., colonization histories and immigration experiences. Key Argument: This essay considers the importance of recognizing the heterogeneity of lived experiences among LHS populations in the U.S. in a health care context. Why ...

study reveals decline in reported medicare outpatient procedures by family physicians amid an aging population

Background and Goal: Family physicians perform a wide range of procedures outside the hospital and tend to be office based. Examples may include surgical procedures such as excisions, suturing, and joint injections. Since the training can vary substantially, the Council of Academic Family Medicine (CAFM)  issued a statement on which procedures they recommend physicians be able to perform competently upon completion of a family medicine residency. The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which family physicians perform CAFM-recommended procedures for Medicare Part B, the outpatient portion ...

COVID-19 pandemic leads to drop in breast cancer screenings, especially among older and racial minority women

Background and Goal: Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the U.S. Early detection of the disease through screening can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment and is an essential preventive service in primary care. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted breast cancer screening as many screening programs were temporarily suspended due to personal concerns about exposure to the virus and the burden on the health care system. The goal of this study was to use real-world electronic health records (EHR) across the U.S. to examine the changes in breast cancer screening utilization since the COVID-19 pandemic and how the follow-up screening rates were impacted ...

Translating the Surgeon General’s framework on social isolation and loneliness to actionable steps in primary care

Background & Goal: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of adult primary care patients identified as lonely, representing a higher prevalence than many diseases commonly seen in primary care such as diabetes. Social isolation and loneliness are increasing over time, which is not only associated with increased health care utilization in primary care patients, but also with increased risk of chronic health conditions. Social isolation is reported to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day in terms of premature death. The U.S. Surgeon General recently released an advisory entitled, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” presenting a framework for action ...

Point/counterpoint: Is prediabetes overdiagnosed?

Background: Prediabetes, a diagnosis intended to identify high-risk persons and prevent progression to diabetes, has been a topic of ongoing debate, and experts continue to disagree about its screening criteria, interpretation, and implications. Author Stance: An epidemiologist and health services researcher argues that prediabetes is overdiagnosed. A prediabetes diagnosis for patients like herself who are at low risk of developing type 2 diabetes can cause more harm than good. They may experience undue distress, undergo unnecessary consultations and tests, and pay additional health care costs. It may be implied—incorrectly—that ...

Primary care clinics can help low-income families receive nutritional support benefits

A research team designed a standardized process for helping low-income families navigate applications for federal nutrition support programs. Within a brief tablet-based nutrition screener completed at pediatric primary care visits, families were asked if they would like help applying for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. If they did, clinic staff followed up by telephone with application assistance. One limitation of this innovation is that some families were not able to be reached by telephone. Connecting ...

The wall of evidence for continuity of care

Background: A long-term relationship between a patient and their doctor, known as continuity of care, has seen a decline in recent decades in both the UK and the U.S. This decline has negatively impacted patient and physician health outcomes and  well-being. Editorial Stance: Building on Terrence McDonald and colleagues' research, which distinguishes between the continuity contributions of a practice and an individual clinician, increased physician continuity has been linked to reduced emergency department ...


Grafted cucumbers get a boost: pumpkin's secret to withstanding salinity

Unlocking broccoli's genome: key to enhanced health benefits

New insights into methyl jasmonate-induced saponin biosynthesis in balloon flower

Unraveling the role of ADGRF5: Insights into kidney health and function

JMIR Dermatology accepted for MEDLINE indexing

Reduced infections seen in CLL and NHL patients undergoing immunoglobulin testing and replacement therapy

Human activity: A double-edged sword in the face of drought

Portfolio performance in financial management: apraize, analyze, act.

Landmark Nature Medicine study reports promising new treatment reduces suffering in Sanfilippo syndrome

Membrane protein analogues could accelerate drug discovery

Berkeley Lab researchers advance AI-driven plant root analysis

Cleveland Clinic study shows weight loss surgery cuts risk of heart complications and death in patients with obstructive sleep apnea and obesity

SQUID pries open AI black box

Resiliency shaped by activity in the gut microbiome and brain

Inspired by nature: synthetic nightshade molecule effective against leukemia cells

Promise green hydrogen may not always be fulfilled

Unifying behavioral analysis through animal foundation models

Up to 30 percent more time: Climate change makes it harder for women to collect water

Heart failure in space: scientists calculate potential health threats facing future space tourists in microgravity

Experts offer guidance on talking with children about racism at pediatrician's office

Drugs for HIV and AIDS trialed as brain tumor treatment for first time

Breakthrough in nanoscale force measurement opens doors to unprecedented biological insights

Scientists discover new behavior of membranes that could lead to unprecedented separations

When inflicting pain on others pays off T

The Lancet: Managing gestational diabetes much earlier in pregnancy can prevent complications and improve long-term health outcomes, experts say

New study finds dinosaur fossils did not inspire the mythological griffin

NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg to deliver keynote address at ISSRDC focused on developing a space workforce

Study: Fatigue-management training improved sleep, safety, well-being for Seattle police

Guiding humanity beyond the moon: OHIO’s Nate Szewczyk and students coauthor papers published in “Nature” journals that revolutionize human space biology

Grant supports research to identify barriers to health care for Black women

[] Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, weight management