The Neuroscience of Intermittent Fasting – A Simplified Guide to the Metabolic Switch and Neuroprotective Effects
Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary trend gaining traction in recent years. It is a structured approach to eating that sees the participant adopt periods of eating and fasting throughout the day. But what impact does intermittent fasting have on the brain?
Compelling historical evidence from the laboratory has shown that laboratory animals that eat every other day can live up to 30% longer than those that eat every day. [Goodrick et al., 1982]
Over the years, this research has been built on current knowledge, now suggesting that different forms of fasting can promote optimal health and resistance to diseases such as diabetes [Belkacemi et al., 2010], cancers, stroke [Arumugam et al., 2010], and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). [Kashiwaya et al., 2013]
From an evolutionary perspective, food scarcity has contributed to the development of advanced cognitive capabilities in humans due to the need to acquire, cooperate and share scarce food resources.
Currently, humans consume food 2-3 times a day, which results in regular replenishment of glycogen stores providing approximately 700-900 calories of energy that lasts for 10-14 hrs in individuals who are not exercising, thus making exposure to the fasting environment a rare event.