A recent study has claimed that fasting can reduce blood pressure — adding to a growing list of benefits to the diet model preferred by many health and fitness gurus.

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Triple H about to burst a blood vessel

Intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular fitness trends in recent years, with advocates touting a variety of metabolic benefits as a result of the practice. One of the most often cited is the process of autophagy (literally ‘self-eating’), whereby the body in a fasted state begins to consume its own tissue, resulting in a renewed sense of vitality and energy.

Fasting Reduces Blood Pressure: Study

fasting blood pressure

Now a new study has claimed another potential benefit for fasting: lower blood pressure. The researchers responsible for the study believe that this occurs as a result of changes to the fasting person’s gut microbiome. Evidence for the importance of the gut microbiome in maintaining good health is rapidly mounting, as our recent reports on the stomach peptide GKN-1 and the dangers of feeding children refined sugar have shown.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a serious problem in the developed world, largely as a result of rising obesity levels. In the US, almost half of all adults suffer from the condition, which places sufferers at increased risk of strokes and heart disease.

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The researchers at Baylor College of Medicine were building on earlier research that showed that the composition of the gut microbiome varied between rats with hypertension and rats with normal blood pressure. The researchers also showed that transplanting gut bacteria from a hypertensive rat to a rat with normal blood pressure caused hypertension.

“This result told us that gut dysbiosis is not just a consequence of hypertension, but is actually involved in causing it,” Dr David Durgan said

“This ground work led to the current study in which we proposed to answer two questions. First, can we manipulate the dysbiotic microbiota to either prevent or relieve hypertension? Second, how are the gut microbes influencing the animal’s blood pressure?”

Using two different groups of rats, the researchers were able to show that fasting was able to mediate the effects of high blood pressure. This involved different feeding regimes and the transplantation of gut flora from fasting to non-fasting animals in an attempt to identify the role of the microorganisms.

The team then used genome sequencing to try to understand how the microorganisms might be mediating blood pressure in the animals. One clear finding was that the observed changes to the microbiome were affecting bile acid metabolism. This led the researchers to investigate whether supplementation with cholic acid, a bile acid, could also reduce blood pressure, which it did.

“This study is important to understand that fasting can have its effects on the host through microbiota manipulation,” Durgan said. 

“This is an attractive idea because it can potentially have clinical applications. Many of the bacteria in the gut microbiota are involved in the production of compounds that have been shown to have beneficial effects as they make it into the circulation and contribute to the regulation of the host’s physiology. Fasting schedules could one day help regulate the activity of gut microbial populations to naturally provide health benefits.”

A video on the benefits of fasting

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