What are your concerns?

close
Inaccurate
Hard to understand
Other

Or copy link

New

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Brain Health

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Brain Health

Like ketogenic and low-carb regimens, many people also practice intermittent fasting (IF), an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating at a set interval. There are testimonials online swearing by IF’s effectiveness in weight loss, but what’s interesting is that this diet might also be good for the brain. What are the benefits of intermittent fasting for the brain? Find out here.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Most diet regimens focus on what you eat. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, focuses on when you eat1.

The idea is for you to eat only within a specific time or window. By doing so, you exhaust your calorie reserves and your body starts burning stored fat, resulting in weight loss.

One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that you have many plans to choose from. For instance, you can choose the 16/8 method, where you eat within an 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours. Others choose the 5:2 method, where you eat as usual 5 days a week and restrict your calorie intake to only about 500 to 600 for 2 days.

Interestingly, it seems like whatever plan you choose, intermittent fasting is good for the brain.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for the Brain

Two reasons why IF might be good for the brain are reduced oxidative stress and increased cellular stress resistance.

Reduced Oxidative Stress

Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules produced during metabolism. But while it’s natural for us to have free radicals, too many may cause damage to the body. The good news is antioxidants can neutralize the negative effects of free radicals — that is if you have enough antioxidants.

When there’s an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals, oxidative stress occurs, and it can damage the cells, protein, and DNA. Oxidative stress is even associated with serious illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease, like Alzheimer Disease2.

Since intermittent fasting essentially reduces food intake, it also reduces the number of free radicals in the cells (less food to metabolize), leading to less oxidative stress.

Another study also discovered that intermittent fasting increases neurons’ resistance to degeneration by boosting the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a vital stress resistance protein3.

Increased Stress Resistance

Another one of the benefits of intermittent fasting: one report said intermittent fasting imposes mild stress on the brain cells. Intriguingly, this is a good thing because the brain cells respond by “enhancing their ability to resist more severe stress.”

An animal study even showed that rat subjects on IF are more resistant to being killed by metabolic and oxidative stress4.

You can compare this benefit to lifting. The more you do it, the more you’ll be able to carry heavier weights.

How Can You Make Intermittent Fasting Work for You?

Now that we have a better idea of the benefits of intermittent fasting on the brain, let’s talk about how to make it work. Is there a specific plan you should choose?

Currently, we have little data to determine which plan works best to maximize IF’s benefits for the brain. Still, one animal study may give us an insight.

In the study, the investigators divided mice subjects into two groups. One with a reduced caloric intake, the other was allowed to eat as much as they want but was subjected to every-other-day fasting.

Results showed that both the fasting and calorie restriction led to beneficial changes in the body. However, intermittent fasting was better in protecting the neurons against the administered neurotoxins4.

This could mean that intermittent fasting, or at least increasing the time between meals, can boost our brain health.

Key Takeaways

Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that focuses on eating at a certain period of hours or a window. While it is most known for helping people achieve weight loss goals, some reports indicate the that benefits of intermittent fasting also include brain health improvement by reducing oxidative stress and increasing the brain cells’ resistance to stress.

Lear more about Healthy Eating here.

health-tool-icon

BMR Calculator

Use our calorie-intake calculator to determine your daily caloric needs based on your height, weight, age, and activity level.

Male

Female

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

1) Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work, Accessed September 22, 2021

2) Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/, Accessed September 22, 2021

3) Gene–Diet Interactions in Brain Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders, https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/0003-4819-139-5_Part_2-200309021-00012, Accessed September 22, 2021

4) Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095528630400261X, Accessed September 22, 2021

5) How Intermittent Fasting Changes Your Brain, https://medium.com/illumination/how-intermittent-fasting-changes-your-brain-de2a665d2267, Accessed September 22, 2021

Picture of the authorbadge
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Mar 14
Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen