Repeated cycles of a low-calorie, plant-based diet have shown promise as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.
Scientists at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles recently tested what they describe as the “fasting-mimicking” diet on a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In a study paper that now features in the journal Cell Reports, they describe how, compared with water-only fasting, periodic 4-day cycles of the fasting-mimicking diet “partially reversed” hallmarks of IBD in the mice.
They saw that the diet reduced inflammation and increased populations of stem cells in the mice’s intestines. Stem cells are essential for tissue repair and regeneration.
In addition, the team observed that these effects appeared, in part, to be due to an increase in beneficial gut bacteria.
Results from humans also showed that the diet reduced markers of inflammation and associated immune cells.
Taking these results together, the researchers conclude that a low-calorie, plant-based, fasting-mimicking diet has potential as an effective treatment for IBD.
Corresponding study author Valter Longo, a professor of biological sciences, says that their investigation is the first IBD study to bring together “two worlds of research.”
“The first [world],” he explains, “is about what you should eat every day, and many studies point to a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, and olive oil. The second is fasting and its effects on inflammation, regeneration, and aging.”
He and his colleagues suggest that the reason that water-based fasting does not seem to be as effective as the fasting-mimicking diet could be because while fasting produces many of the desired effects, the body still needs essential nutrients to do the rest.