Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury
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IMAGE: When mice were allowed to eat without limit and were then exposed to radiation, their intestinal cells’ (in red) regeneration was limited (left). Mice fed a calorie-restricted diet showed a… view more 

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Credit: University of Pennsylvania

Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most animal species examined. Further research has shown that animals fed restricted-calorie diets are also better able to regenerate numerous tissues after injury.

A lingering question has been how these benefits are mediated. A new study led by University of Pennsylvania researchers pinpoints the cell responsible for these improved regenerative abilities in the intestines. According to the scientists’ work, when a calorie-restricted mouse is subjected to radiation, a particular type of stem cell in the intestines, known as reserve stem cells, can survive and quickly rebuild intestinal tissues. The findings align with observations by oncologists that short-term fasting prior to chemotherapy can mitigate the severity of gastrointestinal destruction.

“The moral of the story is you definitely don’t want to be eating a bunch of cheeseburgers before you get chemotherapy or radiation,”

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