In a surprising result, Michigan State University researchers looking at the effects of diet on bowel disease found that mice on a calorie-restricted diet were more likely to die after being infected with an inflammation-causing bacterial pathogen in the colon.
While research suggests inflammation associated with obesity may contribute to inflammatory bowel diseases such as colitis, the study results revealed a low-calorie diet may actually impair the immune system’s ability to respond to infection, said Jenifer Fenton, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.
Additionally, the study found no connection that moderate obesity increased the severity of colitis in the mouse model.
“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 work by colleague Elizabeth Gardner. “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.”