Eating a low-calorie diet that mimics fasting can help reduce intestinal inflammation and repair the gut and help treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Researchers from the University of Southern California found that a “fasting-mimicking diet” caused a reduction in intestinal inflammation and an increase in intestinal stem cells in part by promoting the expansion of beneficial gut microbiota.
Multiple cycles of the fasting-mimicking diet activated stem cells and led to a regenerative effort in the colon and the small intestine. Fasting primes the body for improvement, but it is the “re-feeding” that provides the opportunity to rebuild cells and tissues, the researchers said.
“The study determined that the dietary components are contributing to the beneficial effects, it’s not just about the cells of the human body but it’s also about the microbes that are affected by both the fasting and the diet,” said Valter Longo, Professor at the varsity.
“The ingredients in the diet pushed the microbes to help the fasting maximise the benefits against IBD,” he added.
For the study, published in Cell Reports journal, the team carried out clinical trials where one group of mice consumed a four-day fasting-mimicking diet, an approximate 50 per cent of their normal caloric intake on the first day and 10 per cent of their normal caloric intake from the second through fourth days.
While another group adhered to fasting with a water-only diet for two days.
The findings showed that two cycles of a four-day fasting-mimicking diet followed by a normal diet “appeared to be enough to mitigate some, and reverse other, IBD-associated symptoms”.
Whereas, water-only fasting indicated that certain nutrients in the fasting-mimicking diet contribute to the microbial and anti-inflammatory changes necessary to “maximise the benefits against IBD”, Longo said.