A new study finds crash diets can contribute to belly fat and that the problem is more prevalent in women.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Crash diets could result in even more belly fat, study finds

Crash diets might help you drop a few pounds in a short amount of time, but you could end up with even more belly fat and weaker muscles in the long run, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from Georgetown University recently conducted a study, presented at a American Physiological Society conference, to explore the effects of extreme dieting.

Women are more more likely than men to participate in crash diets, the authors said, so they examined female rats for the assessment. The rodents were given a 60 percent calorie reduction in their diet, which was comparable to going from a 2,000-calorie daily diet to a 800-calorie daily diet in humans.

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After just three days, the animals lost weight and their cycling, similar to a menstrual cycle, temporarily stopped. Their blood pressure, heart rate and kidney function also decreased. 

Once the rats returned to a normal diet, their cycling, body weight, blood pressure and heart rate were restored quickly. However, the analysts noticed the rats had a higher accumulation of belly fat and less muscle three months after the diet ended. 

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“Even more troubling was the finding that angiotensin II, a hormone in the body, was more potent at increasing blood pressure in the rats that were on the reduced-calorie diet,” lead author Aline de Souza said in a statement

The increase could lead to a higher risk of a hypertension diagnosis, which could also point to other health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

“Together with the increase in belly fat, these changes in body composition may cause long-term health risks for people who have previously crash dieted,” the team explained. 

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In another study presented earlier this year, Oxford University researchers revealed crash diets might derail your heart health as well, especially for those with already existing cardiovascular issues. While the 21 obese people they evaluated dropped total body fat, their heart fat went up by 44 percent after just one week on the diet. 

Want to learn more about the latest findings? Take a look here.

>> Related: The worst diet tips nutrition experts have ever heard

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