Scientists are reporting that fasting one or two days a week can boost your brain health and increase longevity.
The study comes from the National Institute on Aging, where researchers looked at whether intermittent fasting—eating no more than 500 calories per day, one or two days per week—could help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases. The results in both animals and humans so far have been promising.
That’s not surprising. Earlier this month, Mayo Clinic researchers reported that overeating can double the risk of memory loss in older adults. There’s increasing evidence of links between obesity, diabetes and dementia, and that things like trans fats can cause brain shrinkage.
Conversely, the effects of a low-calorie diet on longevity and brain health are well known. Rats and mice on calorie-restricted diets have increased their lifespan by up to 40%.
But consistently keeping caloric intake low is something not a lot of people have the desire or willpower to do—which is why NIA researchers want to see whether regular, short-term bursts of Calorie Reduction could have the same effect. Or maybe it could work even better. Mark Mattson, head of the NIA’s neuroscience laboratory, thinks overall calorie restriction “is not likely to be the best method of triggering” brain protection.
However, the Alzheimer’s association and many studies have proved that: ”The best way to cut down your chances of developing dementia is to combine a balanced diet with regular exercise, not smoking, and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol regularly checked.”
The research on the interplay of diet, brain health and longevity is fascinating and important. Eating for health requires an overall commitment. The upside is that cutting back on processed foods and eating a diet high in Omega-3′s, fruits, vegetables and whole grains can also boost or extend your brain’s health.