Go on a Fast to Improve Brain Health and Live Longer
Mention the word, "fasting" and it's bound to raise eyebrows. Some say it's a great way to recharge our system and put our bodies on track while others are adamant that it's harmful, suggesting that it throws our bodies out of whack. Where do researchers at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore side? They shun the latter statement, saying that fasting is good for us. So good, in fact, that it benefits our brains and promotes longevity. Take that, naysayers.
The study, lead by Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine professor Mark Mattson, suggests that calorie reduction via intermittent bouts of fasting one or two days every week can help brains. A variety of high-fiber vegetables, unsweetened teas and plenty of water are example of foods a person could have during a fast.
Why fasting is good for us
He explains that cutting 500 calories every fasting day or two plays a role in improving long-term cognitive function. He also advises eating as much as we'd like post-fast. Such a cycle, he says, is key in making this process as effective as possible in order to reap healthy brain benefits. For example, it's believed that taking our brain out of constant food-seeking mode (think back even to hunter-gatherer survival times) changes the way our brain chemicals and muscles are used and therefore, reduces stress.
Professor Mattson is not alone in this belief. In fact, as far back as 1934, researchers noticed that guinea pigs that were given calorie-restrictive diets not only had more impressive nutrient levels than guinea pigs that were not restricted, but also lived twice as long. Additional research in the following years by those intrigued with this notion has shown that occasional fasting with healthy foods may have neuro-protective benefits. In fact, it may help those suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's; studies have shown intermittent fasting triggers something called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) functions in the brain that fight off such disorders. A better memory, better cognitive function and learning are all a part of this.
Heck, there's even the "Calorie Restriction Society International," comprised of members who buck the conventional "what we're told to consume" wisdom by partaking in reduced-calorie dietary habits. Their web sitelists one of their goals as "To help people apply calorie restriction science to their lives."
Fasting has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction that takes places in the event brain trauma as occurred.
Furthermore, studies show fasting may also promote longevity as well as a help maintain a youthful appearance.
Perhaps health-guru Mark Sisson says it best: "The occasional fast is a nearly risk-free endeavor with proven benefits in other areas, [so] I'll continue to miss a few meals every now and then."