A low-calorie diet may be harmful to people with colitis and other intestinal diseases, according to a surprising new Michigan State University study of mice.
Researchers, reporting in the journal World Journal of Gastroenterology, found mice put on a calorie-restricted diet were more likely to die after being infected with an inflammation-causing bacterial pathogen in the colon.
Past research has found inflammation associated with obesity may contribute to bowel diseases such as colitis, but the new study suggests a low-calorie diet may hinder the immune system's ability to respond to infection, said Jenifer Fenton, of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.
"The results are similar to the research from our department that shows consuming fewer calories make it harder to fight off the flu virus," said Fenton, referring to recent MSU work. "Since this is a totally different pathogen, it amplifies the need to find out why caloric intake has such an impact on the body's ability to respond to infection.
"It is possible that the same mechanism that happens with the flu is occurring with gastro-intestinal diseases; future research will ask this very question."
Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, are conditions affecting the colon and intestines and include ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. People suffering from IBD have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.