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Altering Diet and Feeding Times Affects Our Health

Update Date: Feb 21, 2017 07:53 PM EST

Communications manager and freelance reporter Brandie Jefferson is part of a Johns Hopkins Medicine preliminary study about the effect of intentional fasting on the body of people with multiple sclerosis.

WebMD defined multiple sclerosis (MS) as a chronic, autoimmune disease which affects the body's nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerves. Sclerosis or scarring results from nerve damage. This condition affects speech, vision, muscle control and balance.

Jefferson reported details of the study on NPR which restricted her food consumption from noon to early in the evening. The objective of the study is to identify how this restriction would affect Jefferson's microbiota.

To better understand microbiota, Jefferson sought the help of Jorge Cervantes from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso. Prof. Cervantes has been doing research on microbiomes and its connection diseases.

Cervantes explained that microbiota is a collective term that refers all the microorganisms living in the gut and the microbiome refers to the whole ecosystem which includes all the bacteria, viruses, fungi and their environment.

In particular, good gut bacteria plays an important role in preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria, breaking down certain molecules and signalling an appropriate immune response, like combatting harmful molecules in the body.

An autoimmune disorder like MS is a complex case since the body's immune system gets confused and sends a signal to fight its own.

In order to find out if its diseases that cause the microbiota to change or if it's the microbiota that triggers the disease, scientists conducted an experiment on mice. The results showed that these germ-free mice are less predisposed to suffer from autoimmune conditions and when they do, its manifestations are less severe.

Cervantes concludes identifying a perfectly healthy microbiome would be impossible because it tends to change over time and each microbiota varies from person to person.

Scientists are also looking into the effects of diet on aging. Science Daily reported that researchers from Brigham Young University recently published a study that restricted the calorie consumption of mice which increased their lifespan.

John Price, the paper's senior author said that the mice were living longer because their aging slowed down, they were healthier and had fewer disease. Price cautions however that calorie-restriction in humans as an anti-aging strategy have not been studied yet.

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