The study led by Margaret Morris, the Head of Pharmacology at University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, examined the impact of 'yo-yo dieting' on the gut microbiota of rats.
The researchers compared the abundance of microbiota in rats given continuous access to either a healthy diet or junk food with a group cycled between the two diets, healthy for four days and junk for three, over 16 weeks.
A range of metabolic markers, including body weight, fat mass, insulin and leptin, were also examined.
At the end of the 16 weeks, rats on the cycled diet were 18 percent heavier than those on the healthy diet, while leptin and insulin levels in cycled rats were in between rats fed junk or healthy food.
The researchers found the microbiota of cycled rats was almost indistinguishable from rats fed a constant diet of junk, with both groups' microbiota significantly different from those in the rats fed a healthy diet.
Cycled rats also showed large swings in food intake, consuming 30 percent more energy than those maintained on the healthy diet only.
When cycled rats switched back to a healthy diet, they consumed half as much food as those maintained on a healthy diet only.

The findings were published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.


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