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Periodic fasting following the ‘Buchinger’ method not only leads to significant weight loss, but also has a direct effect on intestinal health and composition, a joint study from the University of Vienna and the biotechnology company BIOMES has found. It is one of the few scientific studies to date that highlights the connection between fasting, the gut microbiome and metabolism. Temporary or intermittent fasting has become widely popular in recent years, and now this study supports the effectiveness of this method for causing a positive change to gut health and as a result, overall health. The new findings were recently published in two respected journals, Functional Foods in Health and Disease and the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
What is the Buchinger method?
Dr. Otto Buchinger developed the “Buchinger Fast” as a multidisciplinary concept. It combines nutrition, mental and physical health and physical activity with a low-calorie liquid diet for a short time period. The Buchinger Fast is divided into three phases:
- Phase 1: Phase 1: 1-day pre-fasting period (600 kcal): low-carbohydrate, vegetarian diet consisting of rice and vegetables divided into three meals.
- Phase 2: 5-day fasting period (< 250 kcal/day): drink 2-2.5 litres of water or herbal teas without sugar daily, have a freshly squeezed organic fruit juice (250 ml) at noon and a clear vegetable soup (250 ml) in the evening.
- Phase 3: 2 days of rebuilding food intake (800 kcal on day 1 and 1,600 kcal on day 2): on both days, follow a light lacto-vegetarian diet rich in fibre (whole grains, prunes, linseed, chicory salad, mashed potatoes, fresh spinach, pumpkin soup, nuts), unsaturated fats (cold-pressed vegetable oils) and low saturated fats (low-fat yoghurt).
During phases 1 and 2, relaxation, rest and only light to normal physical activity such as walking is recommended.
This important new study involved 180 participants who were divided into three groups: Buchinger fasting, fasting with mimetic supplementation (in this case the SIRTFOOD®SHOT drink, which mimics the effects of fasting) and placebo/control. The Buchinger fasting group underwent the one-week fasting programme in which participants consumed no more than 250 calories per day for five consecutive days. The main aim of the study was to investigate and compare whether mimetic fasting and periodic fasting such as with the Buchinger method could slow down the ageing process and improve overall health parameters. The researchers also wanted to understand the mechanisms behind this presumed effect.
The results were clear. Stephanie Lilja MSc, PhD Student in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Vienna and Scientific Director of the study, summarises: “After completion of the study, the participants in the Buchinger fasting group had lost an average of 4.5 kilograms in weight. In addition, certain parameters developed positively, which contribute to a longer and healthier life. These particularly relate to the intestinal microbiome. For example, we recorded an increased level of the fatty acid ‘butyrate’ with important epigenetic (changes caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic genetic code itself) consequences. Butyrate is known to prevent intestinal diseases and inflammatory processes. The SIRTFOOD®SHOT was also found to be able to mimic some of the benefits of fasting, such as the activation of the protein sirtuin.”
Dr Tewodros Debebe, Scientific Director at BIOMES, adds: “We were also able to show that the ratio of ‘Firmicutes’ and ‘Bacteroidetes’ bacteria had changed after the Buchinger fast. The level of Firmicutes decreased while that of the Bacteroidetes increased. Both are closely related to obesity. So, the lower the composition of these bacterial groups, the lower the body weight. Conversely, the so-called ‘Christensenella’ bacteria increased. These bacteria are associated with life longevity and a low body mass index (BMI).”
Prof. Dr. Alexander Haslberger from the Department of Nutritional Science at the University of Vienna: “The many positive effects of fasting are a model for the development of health-preserving, personalised nutritional concepts and functional foods. These include anti-inflammation, cell cleansing and the concept of senolysis, which counteracts cell ageing. The precise analysis of the characteristics of the personal gut microbiota is crucial for this.”
While the University of Vienna was responsible for the recruitment of the participants and the analyses as well as evaluations of selected blood parameters, BIOMES analysed the stool samples and evaluated them scientifically during the study.
Dr. Paul Hammer, CEO of BIOMES and Systems Biologist, comments: “We are pleased about the successful cooperation with the University of Vienna. In two jointly published studies we were able to show that periodic fasting has significant benefits on gut health, which in turn will have significant benefits on overall health. This method of fasting is rightly enjoying increasing popularity, because whether the focus is on losing weight or on general well-being – occasional fasting is good for all of us.”