How Intermittent Fasting Changes Your Brain
IF Insider No. 40
In this issue, we’ll take a close look at how the practice of intermittent fasting can change your brain…for the better! Not only that, we also look at the implications these changes have for your health and well-being.
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How Intermittent Fasting Changes Your Brain
It’s well known and accepted by now that intermittent fasting has a lot of benefits…everything from weight loss to decreasing inflammation and decreasing blood pressure to reducing insulin resistance. All of these things are not only good for your entire body but also positively affect the health of your brain.
But does intermittent fasting have a direct effect on the brain itself or are these positive effects merely a result of secondary factors such as a decrease in inflammation?
An intriguing study, published in 2020 in the journal Brain and Behavior, set out to answer this question by looking at something called neurogenesis. For many years, the accepted science was that neurogenesis or the formation of new brain cells (neurons) didn’t happen in adults. Once you were into your adult years, you were simply stuck with the number of neurons you had.
For people at risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, in which the volume of neurons declines in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with the consolidation of memories as well as playing a role in spatial navigation…
well, those folks were seemingly just out of luck. Until now.
The study, which was done in a rodent model over three months, consisted of four groups of rats. One group was the control group. The first group fasted for 12 hours (with a 12-hour eating window), the second group for 16 (with an 8-hour feeding window), and the third group for 24 hours (on the second day they ate with no restriction). The control group had no restrictions on their eating, except all four groups received the exact same number of calories.
At the study’s end, the rats’ brains were examined for evidence of neurogenesis. All of the three groups of rats who fasted did better than the control group. In addition, the group that fasted for 16 hours and had an 8-hour eating window showed more neurogenesis in the hippocampus than the other groups.
The research team, based in Singapore, went on to emphasize that previous research has been shown to have positive brain effects, including a decreased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Increasing the ability of the brain, particularly the hippocampus, to form new neurons, could be one reason why intermittent fasting has this protective effect. Benefits of IF also include increasing the stress resistance of neurons, perhaps by altering metabolic pathways in the brain.
Previous research has also shown that intermittent fasting increases the level of a protein in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which contributes to the formation of new brain cells and the connections between them. A deficit in BDNF has been linked to dementia. BDNF supports your brain’s neurons, which leads to information being transmitted more efficiently at greater speeds, leading to more focus and increased productivity.
So, we can confidently add the production of new brain cells to a long list of health benefits for intermittent fasting. We also believe, that as further research is done, more of intermittent fasting’s benefits on the brain will come to light.
Baik SH, Rajeev V, Fann DY, Jo DG, Arumugam TV. Intermittent fasting increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain Behav. 2020;10(1):e01444. doi:10.1002/brb3.1444
Why It Matters
The brain is seemingly the seat of everything that makes us human, controlling and coordinating our actions and reactions, enabling us to think and feel, and to remember. Many argue it is the seat of consciousness itself.
“The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”
~ Michio Kaku - (b. 1947) - American theoretical physicist, best-selling author, professor, and futurist. He is the co-founder of field string theory (a branch of string theory) and continues to pursue Einstein’s quest for a unified field theory. His books include The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind as well as The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything.
What We Are Reading 📚
With each issue, we bring you a short blurb on what we are currently reading or watching, including books, articles, podcasts, videos, movies, and research papers of value.
Denise - Earlier this month, Connie Ragen Green published her 25th book… In Pursuit of Healthy-Ness: How I Reinvented My Life with Intermittent Fasting. Connie joined her first 10 Day IF Challenge in March 2020 and has inspired our community in so many ways with her dedication and commitment to her IF practice. To date, she has lost 125 lbs and reversed her pre-diabetes diagnosis.
Connie tells her story of overcoming numerous health challenges and her success will inspire you!
Ellen - In this holiday season, lots of folks will raise a glass of wine in the company of good friends and family and accompany great food. I’m not personally much of a drinker, but I do very occasionally enjoy a good red wine. I’m a big fan of the robust high-altitude Malbecs of Argentina and Chile.
So when I came across Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier, a memoir by Victoria James, I was intrigued. Victoria’s journey, which is so much more than just about wine, is the courageous story of a determined and talented young woman who broke the bonds of an abusive childhood.
The book is also a remarkable look into the “…glittering, high-octane, but notoriously corrosive restaurant industry…” But more than that, Wine Girl is an unapologetic love letter to the pleasures of good wine.
Note - I am enjoying the audio version, narrated by the author.
Did you like this article and learn something new? If so, please let us know in the comments! Questions and suggestions for future articles are welcome, too!
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