(ORDO NEWS) — A new study published in the journal Nature reveals another benefit of intermittent fasting: it can help us heal damaged nerves.
“Other studies have previously linked intermittent fasting to wound healing and new neuron growth, but our study is the first to accurately explain how fasting can help heal nerves,” said Simone Di Giovanni, professor of restorative neuroscience at Imperial College London and lead author of the study. , in the statement.
“Currently, there is no treatment for people with nerve damage other than surgical reconstruction, which is only effective in a small percentage of cases, prompting us to investigate whether lifestyle changes can help recovery,” he explained.
How can fasting repair nerve damage?
It all comes down to an intestinal metabolite known as 3-indolepropionic acid (IPA). It is a powerful antioxidant that can make a huge difference in the treatment of deadly bacterial infections; it plays an important role in protecting us from diabetes, intestinal and liver problems; it can even help us get aroused.
Best of all, it occurs naturally in our body, produced in the intestines by the bacteria Clostridium sporogenesis.
It is also an important metabolite for axonal regeneration. These are thread-like structures at the ends of nerve cells that send electrochemical signals to other cells in the body – if your axons are damaged, your nerves can’t communicate properly with each other, which is why neurodegenerative diseases are as debilitating as they are.
And if IPA restores nerves, then the question for neuroscientists is not “how do we grow nerves,” but “how do we get more IPA in our patients,” which is exactly what the researchers found.
They realized that many of the various known ways to stimulate nerve regeneration exercise, environmental enrichment, and the like have the same side effects as intermittent fasting.
After all, intermittent fasting is well known to have a positive impact on the gut biomes where IPA resides. Could intermittent fasting be the key to nerve regeneration?
To test the hypothesis, the scientists evaluated nerve regeneration in mice that had been crushed on the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body, running from the spine down the leg.
Half of these poor rodents were then put on an intermittent fasting diet, with one day eating normally and then one day fasting, while the other half were allowed to gorge themselves whenever they felt like it.
After ten and thirty days of the experiment, axon regrowth was measured in both groups, and the results were clear. The axons of those intermittently fasted grew about 50 percent more than those of mice without such dietary restrictions.
Significantly higher levels of specific metabolites, including IPA, were also found in the blood of mice fed a restricted diet. Another experiment proved the opposite: Mice given IPA after nerve damage recovered faster and better than those not given IPA.
Of course, there are still many other questions to be answered before IPA is touted as a miracle cure for nerve damage.
“One of the questions we haven’t fully explored is that since IPA persists in the blood for four to six hours at high concentration, would repeated administration throughout the day or added to a regular diet help maximize its therapeutic effect? ‘ Di Giovanni said.
Without further research, the team cannot say with certainty whether these results will be replicated in humans, although there is reason to hope.
“One of our goals now is to systematically explore the role of bacterial metabolite therapy,” Di Giovanni said.
“[This] opens up a whole new area where we have to ask ourselves: is this the tip of the iceberg?
Will there be other bacteria or bacterial metabolites that can aid recovery?” Di Giovanni said.
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