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Intermittent fasting and recovery

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Over the last few years several studies suggested that intermittent fasting might have some benefit for the nervous system. Based on this, the group of Simone Di Giovanni from the Imperial College London had the idea to test its effect on nerve regeneration after injury.

Intermittent fasting and gut bacteria
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Using experimental models, scientists showed that the gut bacteria increased production of the molecule indole-3-propionic acid, called IPA. These bacteria that produce IPA are found naturally in the guts of some humans and are also present in their bloodstream.

IPA and recovery
Using the sciatic nerve injury model, the team showed that IPA significantly enhances axonal regeneration. This drastically increased the length to which damaged axons could regrow, accelerating the recovery of sensory function.

Application in humans
This study shows a clear effect of intermittent fasting on recovery after injury. Since IPA is a naturally occurring metabolite, testing its efficacy in human subjects should be facilitated. The London experiments demonstrate the ability of a metabolic product from the microbic flora, such as IPA, to facilitate regeneration and functional recovery.

This study was published in the journal Nature and was supported by Wings for Life.

Source: Serger, E., Luengo-Gutierrez, L., Chadwick, J.S. et al. The gut metabolite indole-3 propionate promotes nerve regeneration and repair. Nature 607, 585–592 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04884-x

You can find out more on the spinal cord and the influence of its damage on the human body in our basic-information. Wings for Life Glossary gives an understanding of scientific terms.