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Intermittent fasting shows promise in improving gut health, 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.

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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 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 Arciero 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.

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Optimism wards off procrastination

While procrastinators often admonish themselves for their “bad habit,” it turns out that their worries for the future are more to blame.

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People with an optimistic outlook on the future are less likely to be severe procrastinators, according to new research at the University of Tokyo. While procrastinators often admonish themselves for their “bad habit,” it turns out that their worries for the future are more to blame. Through a survey of nearly 300 young people, researchers found that those who had a positive view about their stress levels decreasing in the future, compared to the past or present, were less likely to experience severe procrastination. Views on personal well-being didn’t appear to have an effect. Improving people’s outlook and readiness for the future could help them overcome procrastination and achieve a less stressful lifestyle. 

How many times have you made a “to do” list, and although the most important task is at the top, you seem to be working your way up from the bottom or distracted by something else entirely? While we might chide ourselves for procrastinating, sometimes the more we try to overcome it, the more stressed we feel and the cycle continues. That is how it was for graduate student Saya Kashiwakura from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, so she decided to investigate why.

“I have struggled with procrastination since childhood. I would clean my room when I needed to study for a test and prioritize aikido practice over my postgraduate research. This habit of putting off important tasks has been a constant challenge,” said Kashiwakura. “I wanted to change my behavior, as I realized that I was not confronting the future impact of my actions.”

This inspired Kashiwakura to examine the relationship between procrastination and the procrastinator’s perspective on time, particularly their view of the future. When she began researching procrastination, she was surprised to discover that many more people suffer from it than she had imagined and found it reassuring her problems were not unique.

Previous research has shown that a feature of procrastination is disregard for the future or difficulty linking present actions with future outcomes. However, the reasons for this have been unclear. Kashiwakura and co-author Professor Kazuo Hiraki, also from UTokyo, proposed that it might be because severe procrastinators have a more pessimistic outlook. 

The researchers surveyed 296 participants in Japan in their 20s for their views on stress and well-being, and importantly how these changed over time. This included asking about their experiences from 10 years in the past through to the present, and their expectations for 10 years in the future. From the results, participants were clustered into one of four groups (for example, if they thought their situation would improve or would stay the same), and then each group was divided into severe, middle and low procrastinators. 

“Our research showed that optimistic people — those who believe that stress does not increase as we move into the future — are less likely to have severe procrastination habits,” explained Kashiwakura. “This finding helped me adopt a more light-hearted perspective on the future, leading to a more direct view and reduced procrastination.” 

It was not only the level of stress people experienced, but how their perception of it changed over the 20-year time period discussed, which influenced their procrastination habits. Surprisingly, a relationship wasn’t found between procrastination and negative views on well-being, such as one’s attitude towards oneself, or not yet finding purpose and goals in life.

Using these results, the team wants to develop ways to help people nurture a more optimistic mindset and overcome procrastination. “We hope our findings will be particularly useful in the education sector. We believe that students will achieve better outcomes and experience greater well-being when they can comprehend their procrastination tendencies scientifically, and actively work on improving them, rather than blaming themselves,” said Kashiwakura. 

“Thoughts can change with just a few minutes of watching a video or be shaped by years of accumulation. Our next step is to investigate which approach is appropriate this time, and how we can develop the ‘right’ mindset to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.”

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Study shows how night shift work can raise risk of diabetes, obesity

“When internal rhythms are dysregulated, you have this enduring stress in your system that we believe has long-term health consequences.”

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Just a few days on a night shift schedule throws off protein rhythms related to blood glucose regulation, energy metabolism and inflammation, processes that can influence the development of chronic metabolic conditions.

The finding, from a study led by scientists at Washington State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, provides new clues as to why night shift workers are more prone to diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.

“There are processes tied to the master biological clock in our brain that are saying that day is day and night is night and other processes that follow rhythms set elsewhere in the body that say night is day and day is night,” said senior study author Hans Van Dongen, a professor in the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “When internal rhythms are dysregulated, you have this enduring stress in your system that we believe has long-term health consequences.”

Though more research is needed, Van Dongen said the study shows that these disrupted rhythms can be seen in as little as three days, which suggests early intervention to prevent diabetes and obesity is possible. Such intervention could also help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, which is elevated in night shift workers as well.

Published in the Journal of Proteome Research, the study involved a controlled laboratory experiment with volunteers who were put on simulated night or day shift schedules for three days. Following their last shift, participants were kept awake for 24 hours under constant conditions—lighting, temperature, posture and food intake—to measure their internal biological rhythms without interference from outside influences. 

Blood samples drawn at regular intervals throughout the 24-hour period were analyzed to identify proteins present in blood-based immune system cells. Some proteins had rhythms closely tied to the master biological clock, which keeps the body on a 24-hour rhythm. The master clock is resilient to altered shift schedules, so these protein rhythms didn’t change much in response to the night shift schedule.

However, most other proteins had rhythms that changed substantially in night shift participants compared to the day shift participants.

Looking more closely at proteins involved in glucose regulation, the researchers observed a nearly complete reversal of glucose rhythms in night shift participants. They also found that processes involved in insulin production and sensitivity, which normally work together to keep glucose levels within a healthy range, were no longer synchronized in night shift participants.

The researchers said this effect could be caused by the regulation of insulin trying to undo the glucose changes triggered by the night shift schedule. They said this may be a healthy response in the moment, as altered glucose levels may damage cells and organs, but could be problematic in the long run.

“What we showed is that we can really see a difference in molecular patterns between volunteers with normal schedules and those with schedules that are misaligned with their biological clock,” said Jason McDermott, a computational scientist with PNNL’s Biological Sciences Division. “The effects of this misalignment had not yet been characterized at this molecular level and in this controlled manner before.”

The researchers’ next step will be to study real-world workers to determine whether night shifts cause similar protein changes in long-term shift workers.

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USANA Philippines celebrates 15-year anniversary

Beyond awards, the community it empowers is the true measure of success. From employees to Associates, life-changing opportunities allow them to grow both personally and professionally.

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USANA Philippines recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary in it its ongoing mission to maintain wellness. Company executives, ambassadors, Associates, and product users all attended this grand celebration — a testament to the unwavering commitment to reach one million families worldwide.  

Since its launch in 2009, USANA Philippines has received numerous accolades: Named among the best companies to work for in the country by the HR Asia Awards; Winning the prestigious Linchpin Award from the Asia Pacific Enterprise Awards (APEA); Recognized by Euromonitor as the Number 1 Vitamins and Dietary Supplements Brand in the Philippines for five consecutive years. 

But beyond awards, the community it empowers is the true measure of success. From employees to Associates, life-changing opportunities allow them to grow both personally and professionally.

When Analan Omambing, assistant customer service manager, joined USANA she was shy and introverted, but the support she’s received has pushed her to step up as a team leader.  “The career growth and personal development I gained here have transformed my personality significantly,” she says.  

USANA Philippines also creates ways to form meaningful relationships.  

“Direct selling, especially USANA, is all about relationships,” says Aurora Gaston, vice president for sales development.   

As the first employee hired by USANA Philippines, Loudelle Cinco, USANA’s regional controller in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia has experienced it all.  

“One of the things I treasure is the friendship, having a family in USANA. This position has paved the way to building great and lasting relationships.”  

Over the past 15 years, USANA has seen a shift in their Associate’s perspectives — from a focus on individual success to embracing a more collaborative and inclusive view of the community.  

“This comprehensive development approach underscores USANA’s commitment to not only enhance the lives of our Associates but also empower them to make a meaningful difference in the world” shared Cherry Dionisio-Ampig, general manager for USANA Philippines.  

USANA consistently strives to make an impact by being responsive to shifts in consumer behavior. Changes made over the years include strengthening the brand through collaboration, embracing the evolution of social media, and ensuring Associates can effortlessly introduce USANA’s products to the world. And as USANA Philippines celebrates this milestone, its vigor to sustain wins and touch more lives grows even stronger.  

“We are dedicated to ongoing research and innovation to develop products that not only meet — but exceed — the expectations of families worldwide. By focusing on efficacy and quality, we aim to be the trusted partner in every family’s journey towards maintaining wellness” Cherry says.   

The 15-Year “Ignite the Vibe” celebration was held at the Marriot Hotel Grand Ballroom. It’s the final touch to the anniversary festivities that kicked off with a Thanksgiving Day event in January.

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