Three popular diets plus fasting linked to big health benefits

Three popular diets alongside the habit of not eating for significant periods of time have been linked to important health benefits that extend beyond weight loss. The findings come from the University of Otago, which reports that things like lowered blood sugar and blood pressure as among the benefits associated with these diets and fasting, each assessed in a 'real world' setting.

Trendy diets come and go, but some manage to stick around for long periods of time, even earning endorsements from health organizations and recommendations from doctors. One such diet is the popular Mediterranean diet, which has repeatedly been linked to various positive health changes in many studies over the years. Two other popular dieting protocols evaluated by the recent study are Intermittent Fasting and Paleo diets.

Researchers studied all three of these diets with the goal of seeing how effective they are in the real world rather than a clinical one, meaning the participants — all 250 of them — were tasked with picking which diet they preferred and sticking to it on their own without any continued support from a dietician.

The study found that all three dieting protocols conferred health benefits, though certain diets were more associated with select benefits than others. Intermittent fasting, for example, which involves going 12 to 18 hours without eating, was linked with greater weight loss — this isn't a surprise considering that the participants only ate around 500 calories per day on two days per week.

Compared to this, the participants who went on a Mediterranean diet were more likely to experience improved blood sugar levels. Both fasting and the Mediterranean diet were linked with 'significant improvements' in the participants' blood pressure measurements, as well. Controlling blood pressure is an important factor in reducing the risks of heart disease and a number of other health issues.

The findings suggest that some diets may be more beneficial for certain people than others — no single diet is the perfect option for everyone. Someone suffering from high blood pressure, for example, may benefit from the Mediterranean diet rather than the Paleo diet. Of these three dieting protocols, the Mediterranean diet was found to be the easiest for participants to follow.

Participants were most likely to stick with the Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting compared to the Paleo diet, according to the study. A large percentage of the study's participants struggled to stick with any of the dieting protocols for a full year, however.