Since little is known about the long-term impact of these diets, the team tried to study the same with the help of some roundworms. The research revealed that reduced food intake in roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans) has a detrimental effect on three generations of offspring- especially when the descendants have access to unlimited food.
Lead researcher Dr Edward Ivimey-Cook, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said, “We know that reduced food intake increases the lifespan in many animals and can potentially improve health in humans. However, little is known about the long-term effects of reduced food intake, including time-limited fasting, on distant descendants.” “We wanted to find out more about the potential long-term impact of fasting diets,” Dr Ivimey-Cook added.
For the study, the team studied the impact of time-limited fasting on lifespan and reproduction in roundworms and across three generations of their descendants. More than 2,500 worms split across four generations were studied. They placed the first generation of worms in one of four environments, including being able to eat as much as they liked, and being on a fasting diet. The four generations of offspring from these parents were later placed onto either full-feeding or fasting diets.
The effects of different scenarios on the reproduction and longevity of future generations were studied in detail. For instance, what happens when great grandparents fast, but their future generations east as much as they like, and also impact of cumulative fasting for four generations.
Upon choosing roundworms as their subject, Dr Ivimey-Cook said, “We looked at what happens in roundworms. Unlike us, they’re transparent, about 1mm long and live in the soil.” “They don’t have bones, a heart, or a circulatory system. But they’re a classic model organism for studying the ageing process in biology because they do share many genes and molecular pathways that control development with humans,” Dr Ivimey-Cook further stated.
The short life-cycle of roundworms was also another reason. Dr Ivimey-Cook said that the results could be studied in a much shorter amount of time. Studying four generations of humans could take a century or more.