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Thread: Question re: malnutrition's affects on digestion efficiency

  1. #1

    Question re: malnutrition's affects on digestion efficiency

    My brain tells me that malnutrition would decrease the small intestine's ability to digest food. Is that accurate?

    Steven
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Edwards View Post
    My brain tells me that malnutrition would decrease the small intestine's ability to digest food. Is that accurate?

    Steven
    Steven,

    I don't think so. Based on what I know, the intestine digests and absorbs food efficiently through thick and thin. In fact, one would expect the body to want to have more efficient digestion and absorption when it is malnourished.

    I have always been puzzled by Celiac's disease, a condition where the body is unable to break down and absorb nutrients in the presence of gluten. This use to be quite a rare disease when I was in medical school in the 1970's. However, it is apparently more common today.

    In any case, gluten apparently stimulates the immune system to damage intestinal villi and thereby cause general malabsorption. It can be triggered by emotion, viral infections, pregnancy, and other stresses. I wonder if there would be less celiac's disease if there were less food.

    It would seem to me that genes for Celiac's and other malabsorption diseases would be very efficiently and effectively eliminated from the human genome during times of famine, unless these diseases are prevented by severe malnutrition. It is bad enough if one cannot get enough to eat but to couple this malnourishment with malabsorption would be a real killer.

    Wise.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young View Post
    Steven,

    I don't think so. Based on what I know, the intestine digests and absorbs food efficiently through thick and thin. In fact, one would expect the body to want to have more efficient digestion and absorption when it is malnourished.
    Wise,

    Thanks you.

    At first I thought the villi wouldn't be able to absorb all nutrients during a surplus, but they shouldn't have a problem with nutrient absorption during times of deficiency. Then I thought would the chyme not be digested as thoroughly, thus including fewer small molecules for the villi to absorb?

    My original question was poorly formed, I guess.

    The aforementioned scenario is where I'm having trouble figuring out what's what.

    Steven
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  4. #4
    Steven,

    To my knowledge, I think that evidence is all around us that the body absorbs food as efficiently as possible under all circumstances. So obese people are clearly absorbing their food. Mother and children in famine situations must able to absorb every calory of the food they swallow. This must be one of the most highly selected for characteristics in our genome because ability to survive famine is directly related to our ability to carry on the species.

    At the International Society for Stem Cell Research, there were been many fascinating studies lately relating to the effect of hyponutrition on stem cells. One was a talk by a woman in Michigan (I am sorry but I forgot her name) who studied the production of sperm in Drosophila. They found by accident that flies that were fed a lower amount of calories produce less sperm and did so by changing the location of the centrosomes in the stem cells, that somehow prevented the production of more sperm.

    Another talk was about C. elegans, the round worm. If you starve the animal, it seemingly self-amputates its intestinal system and other internal organs and becomes a simpler worm (presumably less consumptive) but when you feed it, its stem cells apparently come rapidly to life and start to remake the organs to take advantage of incoming food. Intestinal stem cells are clearly sensitive to nourishment and the nutritional status of the animal. So, this may account for something along the lines of what you are intimating at.

    I am sorry that I don't remember the names of the speakers.

    Wise.

  5. #5
    Wise,

    I wish the ISSCR had a meeting planner like SfN so I could view those abstracts. They definitely sound interesting.

    I was thinking about your response this morning and it hit me: calorie restriction likely proves your point. A quick search returned this 2007 article at PubMed Central:

    Source:
    Abstract

    Calorie restriction (CR) is a dietary intervention shown to increase maximum life-span. The aim of this study was to compare the metabolizable energy of the pelleted semi-purified diet with estimated energy intake from food weight. Energy density of diet, urine and feces were measured by bomb calorimetry in rhesus monkeys (23-29 years old) on CR (CR, n=11) and control (C, n=9). Food moisture was measured to be 2-fold higher (9±1%) than indicated on the label (~5%). The measured gross energy of diet was 4.4kcal/g dry weight of CR and 4.5kcal/g dry weight of C diets. In a two-day trial, food intake (mean±SD) was 112±20g and 136±26g of dry mass/d in the CR and C monkeys, respectively (p = 0.003). The fraction of the diet absorbed (CR=0.91; C=0.95) was different (p<0.001) between CR and C monkeys. Using these coefficients, the metabolizable energy intake averaged over 6 months was 450±53 kcal/d and 534±97 kcal/d in CR and C monkeys, respectively (Diff=16%; p=0.03). These values were compared with energy expenditure (EE), as measured annually by indirect calorimetry (490±61 kcal/d in CR and 532±62kcal/d in C monkeys). Adjusted for changes in body composition (2±10kcal/d in CR and 7±12kcal/d in C), energy balance was not different from zero in CR (-42±42kcal/d) and C (9±61kcal/d) monkeys. Use of diet weight is a reasonable estimate of the level of CR when food waste is assessed.

    Introduction

    Calorie restriction (CR) without malnutrition has been shown to delay aging and attenuate age-related diseases in various organisms (Wiendruch & Walford, 1988; Hunt et al, 2006). Reduced energy intake rather than a reduction in any specific macronutrient has been shown to be the primary cause of the life span extension (Iwasaki et al, 1988; Masoro, 1988). CR's ability to retard aging has been attributed to many reasons including a decrease in the metabolic rate (Harman, 1981) and associated reduction in oxidative damage (Bevilacqua et al, 2004; Masoro, Shimokawa & Yu, 1991; Sohal & Weindruch, 1996). Although it is well established that an acute decrease in energy intake decreases lean mass-adjusted metabolic rate (McCarter, 1991; McCarter, Masoro & Yu, 1985; McCarter & McGee, 1989), it is still debated whether this reduction is maintained during long-term CR or if the long-term reduction is explained by a decrease in body and organ mass (Gallagher et al, 1998).

    While the effects of reduced energy intake have been studied extensively, many studies have estimated the degree of restriction based on the degree of reduction in the mass of diet that disappears from the food holder. This, however, may not accurately reflect the true degree of restriction. For example, it is known that the energy released when food is completely combusted in a bomb calorimeter does not exactly equal the metabolic energy provided to the body due to digestibility and incomplete utilization – ie energy losses in urine and feces. This reduction in energy available to the body has given rise to the term ‘metabolizable energy’ (ME), which is defined as the energy available to the body after correcting for losses in urine and feces (Moe, 1994). The systematic approach to measuring metabolizable energy was refined by Atwater and coworkers as extensively discussed in USDA Handbook #74 (Merrill & Watt, 1973). . . .

    Discussion

    . . .[W]e also found a significant 4% decrease in the absorption efficiencies under long-term CR, which is counter-intuitive and could not be explained by any specific mechanism thus far. (Source)
    A 4% decrease still sounds pretty efficient to me.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  6. #6
    This is what they gave us at the meeting to gain access to the abstracts. I zipped it. Wise.

  7. #7
    Thanks Wise! I will parse through them this week.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  8. #8
    Moderator jody's Avatar
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    you would think then that you would be healthier nearing starvation then. However with many months of poor nutrition, a diet of mostly rice noodles, and sometimes a day or two of no food at all, caused me go get gout. I have a painful 2-3 days about once a week, months later. I had some hairloss, and I noticed little bruises from every little bump. my gums began to look red and inflamed, and I had itchy skin. the arthritic symptomes remain while the rest disappeared after 3-3 weeks of decent food.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by jody View Post
    you would think then that you would be healthier nearing starvation then.
    Not really. Your body requires a daily minimum of calories and nutrients to function well, so nearing starvation for a prolonged period of time wouldn't be too helpful.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

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