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Intermittent Fasting for Brain Health

Posted by Dr. Rob Silverman on Sep 7, 2020 12:51:30 PM

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Intermittent fasting is one of the most exciting recent trends in health, especially brain health nutrition. When you follow this time-restricted eating pattern, you eat only during a window of six to 10 hours between breakfast and your evening meal.

During this time, you eat your usual amount of food—intermittent fasting doesn't mean cutting calories. But when your eating window closes, you don't eat again until it opens the next morning—you fast for at least 14 hours and preferably longer, up to 18 hours.

A long overnight fast might seem strange, but in fact, that's the eating pattern humans have followed until very recently. Only in modern times has food been so abundant and easily accessible that we can eat lots of it around the clock, including extensive snacking in the evening. During waking hours, most of us rarely go more than a few hours without eating.

 

Returning to a more natural eating pattern through Intermittent fasting can have a profound positive effect on your health. You give your digestive system a break by not constantly piling food into it. And when you fast for at least 14 hours, you force your body to use up all the blood sugar in your circulation. In fact, to fuel your metabolism near the end of the fasting period, your body will probably need to dip into its reserves of stored glucose (glycogen) and fat. At that point, you're in a state of mild ketosis without being on a ketogenic diet. You're now fueling yourself with ketone bodies, including one called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).[1] Burning BHB promotes division and multiplication of the epithelial cells that line the inside of your blood vessels and helps keep your vascular system flexible. Healthy blood vessels keep your brain healthy, helping support vascularization and neurological health.

Overall, intermittent fasting can support blood sugar levels within normal ranges by promoting a healthy insulin response.[2] Keeping your blood sugar at healthy levels is extremely important for keeping your brain healthy as you age. A lack of healthy diet and exercise habits will rapidly age your brain through inflammation and oxidative damage. Keeping your blood sugar at normal levels will help you maintain proper cognitive health as you age.

Intermittent fasting also brings down your overall level of inflammation.[3] More and more, we realize the central role of inflammation in neurological health in aging populations. Keeping inflammation levels as low as possible is a powerful strategy for preserving brain health.[4]

Find out how L-theanine impacts brain health in our guide.

Fertilizing Your Brain

Even more valuable for your brain health is the way intermittent fasting increases your levels of the critical brain protein BDNF.[5] Often called fertilizer for the brain, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) plays a crucial role in learning and memory by making communication between neurons in the brain more efficient. BDNF stimulates the growth of new neurons and makes neurons more resistant to the damaging effects of stress. When you have plenty of BDNF supporting your brain cells, the neurons fire together—and neurons that fire together, wire together. Secure, connected neurons as you age keep your memory intact and maintain your executive function and self-regulation skills. You can remember, plan, focus, and handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Interestingly, prebiotic and probiotic nutritional supplements also stimulate BDNF production. * This is an excellent example of how the gut influences the brain along the brain-gut axis. Here's how it works: Prebiotic and probiotic supplements increase the numbers of good bacteria in the gut. * When you have more good bacteria, they produce more short-chain fatty acids, especially butyrate, as a byproduct of their metabolism. The abundant butyrate in the gut stimulates the complex process that makes you secrete more BDNF in your brain.

Intermittent fasting also stimulates autophagy—the body's natural clean-up process to remove and recycle damaged molecules, dysfunctional mitochondria, and worn-out cells. In the brain, the process helps remove the damaged proteins that form tau tangles.

The fasting part of the intermittent eating pattern puts your brain in an altered metabolic state that optimizes energy usage, builds connections among neurons (plasticity), and improves resilience. More and more research is showing that intermittent fasting can improve cognition and slow age-related cognitive decline

RELATED CONTENT: DOES INTERMITTENT FASTING BOOST HGH?

Supplements for Brain Health*

Intermittent fasting can do a lot for your brain health, but it's just one piece of the bigger picture. Plenty of exercise and a brain-healthy diet is just as important. You can further support your brain health with a daily protocol that includes three supplements: Amyloid Benefits, Brain Benefits, and MegaProbiotic ND 50.*

Amyloid Benefits helps maintain a normal inflammatory response and may help prevent the formation of proteins in the brain.* By helping to slow plaque formation and maintain a normal inflammatory response, Amyloid Benefits helps prevent age-related mental decline and cognitive impairment.*

The Brain Benefits liquid supplement contains the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), essential fats that are primary structural components of brain cells. In particular, DHA helps stimulate the production of BDNF and is also very helpful for maintaining normal inflammation levels in the brain.*

MegaProbiotic ND 50 helps restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut microbiome.* When the good bacteria are abundant, they produce plenty of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate, which in turn stimulates the production of BDNF. Of course, a healthy gut microbiome has many other benefits, including supporting a normal inflammatory response throughout the body. MegaProbiotic ND 50 formula uses nine bacterial strains, including several known to support healthy brain function.* Lactobacillus Plantarum, for example, has been shown to promote the functionality of the gut-brain axis.*

The ancient Athenian philosopher Plato said, "Fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within." More than two thousand years later, we've rediscovered his wisdom. With intermittent fasting, our inner physician can help us maintain good health for years to come.

Age becomes just a number.

Dr. Rob Silverman

brain health nutrition


[1] de Cabo R, Mattson MP. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease [published correction appears in N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 16;382(3):298] [published correction appears in N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 5;382(10):978]. N Engl J Med. 2019;381(26):2541-2551. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1905136

[2] Barnosky AR, Hoddy KK, Unterman TG, Varady KA. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Transl Res. 2014;164(4):302-311. doi:10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013

[3] Johnson JB, Summer W, Cutler RG, et al. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma [published correction appears in Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Nov 1;43(9):1348. Tellejohan, Richard [corrected to Telljohann, Richard]. Free Radic Biol Med. 2007;42(5):665-674 doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2006.12.005

[4] Degan D, Ornello R, Tiseo C, Carolei A, Sacco S, Pistoia F. The Role of Inflammation in Neurological Disorders. Curr Pharm Des. 2018;24(14):1485-1501. doi:10.2174/1381612824666180327170632]

[5] Lee J, Duan W, Long JM, Ingram DK, Mattson MP. Dietary restriction increases the number of newly generated neural cells, and induces BDNF expression, in the dentate gyrus of rats. J Mol Neurosci. 2000;15(2):99-108. doi:10.1385/JMN:15:2:99]

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