Intermittent fasting may protect gut health in older people

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At the American Physiology Summit held in Long Beach, California, researchers presented findings from a study conducted on mice that shed light on potential benefits of intermittent fasting beyond mere weight loss.

Spencer Vroegop, a second-year student at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University and the study’s first author, outlined how this dietary strategy could enhance glucose processing and slow down age-related declines in intestinal health.

Intermittent fasting involves alternating cycles of eating and fasting and has become increasingly popular as a method for managing weight. However, this study sought to explore its broader health impacts, particularly in the context of aging.

The researchers utilized mice genetically modified to age prematurely and divided them into two groups. One group had constant access to food, while the other underwent cycles of fasting and eating every other day.

After eight months, the fasting group not only showed less weight gain but also demonstrated beneficial structural changes in the small intestine—specifically the jejunum, a critical segment for nutrient absorption. These changes were associated with improved glucose control and reduced inflammation.

Vroegop explained that the observed weight loss from intermittent fasting might stem from more than just reduced calorie intake.

Changes in glucose metabolism induced by fasting could also play a significant role, potentially making these effects more sustainable than those achieved through simple calorie restriction.

Further, the study suggested that intermittent fasting might help counteract detrimental age-related changes in the small intestine, effectively rejuvenating its structure and function.

This could have significant implications for nutrient absorption and overall gastrointestinal health as organisms age.

Interestingly, the effects of fasting appeared to be more pronounced in female mice, who exhibited greater improvements in intestinal health and sugar transport, although the impact on blood sugar levels was more substantial in males.

The researchers are planning follow-up studies to delve deeper into these sex-specific responses.

Despite these promising findings, Vroegop was careful to note the limitations of translating results directly from mice to humans. He emphasized that intermittent fasting is still a relatively new field of study, with considerable variability in the fasting regimens employed across different research.

As such, there isn’t a consensus yet in the scientific community about the optimal fasting strategy or a comprehensive understanding of the potential risks and benefits.

This study adds to the growing body of literature suggesting that intermittent fasting might have far-reaching health benefits, but more research is necessary to fully understand its implications and to develop guidelines that can be reliably recommended for human health improvement.

If you care about gut health, please read studies about how junk food harms your gut health,  and how probiotics can protect gut health.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how fiber affects weight loss and your overall health, and results showing why a glass of red wine is good for your gut.

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