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The surprising brain function benefits of intermittent fasting and exercise (according to research)

Neuroscientists have known for a long time that toxic proteins aren’t good for the brain.

They have been linked to devastating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s.

However, doctors and neuroscientists have been puzzled as to how they can get rid of these toxic proteins…until now.

New research from scientists at Harvard has found that fasting and vigorous exercise improved the internal cellular disposal of toxic proteins.

According to Chris Palmer, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, this is an exciting result because we don’t have to wait for the development of a new drug.

Fasting and exercise are two natural activities that we can do right now, and they don’t have side effects.

So, what did they the study find?

It was found that vigorous exercise and 12-hour fasting significantly increased the levels of cAMP, a chemical trigger to induce a cellular process to eliminate excess waste proteins.


What are the implications?

Fasting and exercise are both metabolic interventions that initiate the metabolic state of ketosis.

This study may have stumbled upon a reason why metabolic disorders are a huge risk factor for developing neurodegenerative diseases.

The study has also found a potential preventer of damaging brain diseases in fasting and exercise.

However, before we celebrate too much, researchers are quick to warn that the benefits brought on by vigorous exercise and a 12-hour fast to induce cellular clean up only lasted a few hours.

It’s still promising research that warrants further investigation.

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For example, what kind of exercise produces the best therapeutic benefit? Is regular intermittent fasting a solid means to clear out the negative toxins in the brain?

Hopefully, with more research, these questions can be answered, and exercise and fasting can be used as a way to treat and prevent devastating brain diseases.

An increasing amount of studies on intermittent fasting are showing that it could be beneficial for the brain

This study has also built on decades-old research linking a connection with intermittent fasting and improved neural connections in the hippocampus.

In John Hopkins Health Review, neuroscientist Mark Mattson explained why this might be the case:

“Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and we think that your brain reacts by activating adaptive stress responses that help it cope with disease…From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense your brain should be functioning well when you haven’t been able to obtain food for a while.”

If you’re looking to give intermittent fasting a shot, Mattson recommends people try one of two strategies.

The first is called the 5:2 diet, which involves limiting caloric intake to 500 calories two nonconsecutive days per week while eating a regular healthy diet for the rest of the week.


The other strategy is the time-restricted diet in which you pack all your meals into one eight-hour period of a day, so your body has time to exhaust its supply of glycogen and start burning fat.

However, according to Matson, you may not want to dive in too quickly into fasting:

“The analogy with exercise applies here as well. If you’ve been sedentary and then all of a sudden you try to run five miles, it’s not very pleasant and you’ll likely get discouraged. It’s the same thing as if you’ve been eating three meals a day plus snacks, and then you’re not eating anything at all for two days; you’re not going to like it.”

Mattson advises easing into fasting slowly, by starting with one fasting day per week then slowly increasing it to 2.

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Notable replies

  1. I suspect that there is a lot of potential with this idea.
    I’ve tried it myself and lost 30 lbs to date. There seems to me to be other benefits with fasting for obese folks . First one being that hunger seems to shrink the stomach as opposed to lap band type interventions. Second, obese folks I suspect have greater stores of yeast fungal bacteria in their bodies, so this plan coupled with low carbohydrate intake lowers the amounts of sugar feeding the yeast and causing inflammation in a rising pizza dough fashion. Also less sugar reduces blood pressure. For myself being a bricklayer for over 30 years now I’ve enjoyed significant joint pain reduction.

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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