Benefits of Fasting For The Brain

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Two intermittent fasting trials have been conducted to date.  Dr. James Johnson partnered with Mattson to conduct a clinical trial with 12 overweight subjects with asthma.   Following an alternative day diet, asthma symptoms improved.  Dr. Johnson wrote “The alternative day diet” based on the success of the trial.

Michelle Harvie from the University of Manchester conducted the second trial with 100 overweight women with high risk of breast cancer.  3 Groups each received a different diet: average diet, caloric restriction, and intermittent fasting. The results have yet to be published, but Mattson reported that participants in the fasting group lost weight and improvements in their insulin sensitivity were noted.

The most promising evidence thus far indicates that intermittent fasting does not adversely affect muscle mass, blood glucose levels or cognition which confirms that periodic fasting, unlike long-term calorie restriction (CR) does not lead to the harmful side effects found in calorie restriction.

Professor Mark Mattson (National Institute on Aging USA) promotes intermittent fasting, but does warn that it is not recommended for people over 70, as their brains do not seem to benefit from intermittent fasting – if it does, there would be a very little benefit for the elderly over 70-years of age.  Intermittent fasting is also not recommended for the very young as children need calories to keep them growing.

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What Intermittent Fasting Is Not

Intermittent fasting is NOT an extreme form of dieting.  It is also NOT starvation followed by binge eating.  It is simply a method that you could use to time your meals, allowing for regular periods of fasting. At this point, it is important to note that the type of food you eat during intermittent fasting is important as well.  The bottom line or easiest rule to follow is to eat as much possible unprocessed food.   Keep in mind that proteins are needed for the body to function so it is best to avoid the starches and stick to plant-derived proteins. Lean meats, fresh vegetables and a high intake of water are recommended.

Why would my brain benefit from fasting – is fasting not used just for weight loss?

  1. Fasting slows down the onset of strokes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, dementia and other cognitive disorders:

Fasting introduces a mild form of beneficial stress in the body.  When the body enters a state of stress neurochemical changes take place in the brain.  The brain responds to the fasting challenge to cope with the stress and risk of disease.  (The same changes take place in the brain with regular exercise).  Both exercise and fasting are cognitive challenges which increase the production of protein in the brain, which in turn, strengthen synapses,  the growth of neurons and the connections between neurons.

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