Study provides insight into long-term impacts of dieting and food insecurity

Could fluctuations in body weight resulting from a drastic reduction and increase in calories lead to physiological changes that increase the risk of heart disease or diabetes later in life?

A new study conducted on rats and presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society at the Experimental Biology (EB) 2022 meeting, held in Philadelphia from April 2-5, offers potential insights into the long-term impacts of dieting, as well as unintended reductions in food intake caused by food insecurity.

Most previous studies in humans and animals have focused on the short-term impacts of weight loss, but researchers say less is known about how cycles of loss and gain weight can affect long-term health.

For the study, the researchers divided 16 rats into two groups. One group received a normal amount of food throughout the study, while the other group experienced three cycles of a restricted diet (60% of their normal daily food intake) followed by three weeks of a normal diet. At the end of the study, the researchers used ultrasound to assess the rats’ heart and kidney function and blood tests to assess insulin sensitivity, a measure of how well the body processes sugar.

We found that animals going through multiple cycles of weight loss and body weight recovery showed reduced heart and kidney function at the end. They also had more insulin resistance, which may be a cause of diabetes. Even though the animals appear to be healthy after feed ‘recovery’, their heart and metabolism are not healthy.”

Aline MA de Souza, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, study first author

The findings also raise questions about public health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as whether people who have struggled to access food due to pandemic shutdowns and economic impacts face impact. increase in cardiovascular problems in the years to come.

“Our data supports the need for more research in people to find out whether people who follow very restrictive dieting cycles to lose weight are at higher risk of developing heart problems later in life,” de Souza said. “We still need to do more studies in this area, but the results suggest that the more restrictive the diet, the worse the health outcomes may be. Weight-loss diets require careful attention to long-term health, especially if rapid weight loss is considered. As an option.”

Although further research is needed to determine the biological mechanisms behind the findings and whether the patterns seen in rats translate to humans, the researchers believe that changes in gene expression in response to restriction calories could alter the biological pathways that regulate blood pressure and insulin metabolism.


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