A new study in mice shows that intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common dementias, along with vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. These conditions prevent brain cells or nerve cells from working properly, affecting memory, thought, and speech.
While there is no cure for dementia, it is believed that there are a number of ways to reduce the risk of developing these conditions, including keeping the brain active as you age.
A study published in the journal Cell Reports found that how often you eat can also make a difference.
As part of the study, the USC team studied healthy mice and two groups of mice at risk of dementia, known as E4FAD and 3xTg.
Mice were fed a diet that mimics intermittent fasting for four to five consecutive days, twice a month, and between these cycles they ate regular food.
The results showed that mice that participated in a simulated fasting regimen had a “significant” decrease in beta-amyloid, a substance that accumulates in the brain and is thought to lead to dementia.
The results also showed that tau proteins, which have the same effect on the brain, were also reduced in fasted mice. Mice on a starvation diet had a lower rate of encephalitis.
The study states: “The effect of foot-and-mouth disease cycles on the reduction of several aging and disease risk factors suggests that they may influence Alzheimer’s disease. Here we show that FMD cycles reduce cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in models of Alzheimer’s disease.” E4FAD and 3xTg AD mice, with effects that exceed those of protein restriction cycles.”
The study continued: “In 3xTg mice, cycles of long-term starvation-mimicking diets reduce hippocampal beta-amyloid loading and tau hyperphosphorylation, promote neural stem cell formation, decrease microglia, and reduce neuroinflammatory gene expression.”
The authors conclude: “Clinical evidence suggests that courses of FMD treatment are feasible and generally safe in a small subset of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. These data suggest that FMD treatments delay cognitive decline in models of Alzheimer’s disease in part by reducing neuroinflammation and/or superoxide production in the brain. .
The team also analyzed data from a small clinical trial that looked at intermittent fasting in people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.
The results indicated that fasting would be a “safe” option for humans, however more research is needed.