Mark Mattson, the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging recently discussed how fasting affects the body, particularly the brain.
On his TED talk, Mattson said fasting twice a week could lower the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. He explained that fasting stimulates the production of new nerve cells from hippocampus stem cells, which in turn helps improve learning and memory ability.
Mattson, who is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University, is one of the leading researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders.
“Dietary changes have long been known to have an effect on the brain. Children who suffer from epileptic seizures have fewer of them when placed on caloric restriction or fasts. It is believed that fasting helps kick-start protective measures that help counteract the overexcited signals that epileptic brains often exhibit. (Some children with epilepsy have also benefited from a specific high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.) Normal brains, when overfed, can experience another kind of uncontrolled excitation, impairing the brain’s function, Mattson and another researcher reported in January in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.”(source)
Basically, when you take a look at caloric restriction studies, many of them show a prolonged lifespan as well as an increased ability to fight chronic disease.
“Calorie restriction (CR) extends life span and retards age-related chronic diseases in a variety of species, including rats, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast. The mechanism or mechanisms through which this occurs are unclear.”
The quote above is from a review of the literature that is more than 10 years old. The work presented here is now showing some of these mechanisms that were previously unclear.
Fasting does good things for the brain, and this is evident by all of the beneficial neurochemical changes that happen in the brain when we fast. It also improves cognitive function, increases neurotrophic factors, increases stress resistance, and reduces inflammation.
Image courtesy of: EMSL