Diet plans mainly focus on what you eat, but intermittent fasting is a plan that focuses on when you eat. People opt for a diet plan mainly for weight loss; some do it for health benefits. Very few, if any, consider the benefits diet plans have for brain health, and intermittent fasting does incredible things for your brain.
Intermittent fasting is a diet plan based on human bodies built to last for several hours, if not days, without food. Hunting and gathering food in prehistoric times took a lot of energy and time, so it was natural to go for long periods without food.
There are several ways people go about intermittent fasting; some opt to fast for one or two days a week, and others may have a daily time set, like the 16/8 intermittent fasting plan or 18/6 fasting routine. The theory behind intermittent fasting is that after a certain amount of time, the body’s sugar reserves run out, and the body starts burning fat.
Intermittent fasting can do wonders for people it is compatible with, both in weight loss and overall health. Below are some phenomenal yet neglected benefits intermittent fasting has for your brain:
Research shows promising results of intermittent fasting on long and short-term memory. Several subjects’ spatial and working memory improved greatly after a few weeks of regular intermittent fasting. Tests on animals show that intermittent fasting had impressive results on their memory and learning ability.
These positive results for memory also indicate a lesser risk of age-associated cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The reduced risk of mental illnesses can be credited to the Klotho gene, which encourages the hippocampal growth of adult-born neurons. These adult-born neurons play a huge role in memory formation. This gene declines with age, contributing to chronic mental illnesses.
Inflammation is a common symptom across several chronic physiological and mental illnesses. Mental problems like depression, schizophrenia, OCD, BPD, and several others show a common trend in inflammation.
Intermittent fasting has numerous benefits in combating inflammation. Too much inflammation has been linked to people eating too much and too often by several researchers. Inflammation is the body’s natural response in combating various diseases. While it plays a role in fighting infection, prolonged and extensive inflammation can cause various chronic diseases.
Several studies link intermittent fasting to reduced inflammation. This reduction is linked to a decrease in cells that cause inflammation, known as “monocytes.” Further analysis also showed that the monocytes present in the blood were less inflammatory than with a non-calorie restrictive diet.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common in modern society. Hypertension is directly linked to increasing heart problems over time. One of the most commonly known benefits of intermittent fasting is its effectiveness in lowering blood pressure.
Low blood pressure means better blood flow in the body and, as a result, better blood flow in the brain. Low blood flow in the brain has been linked with depression, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, BPD, and many other common mental illnesses.
Low blood flow is also one of the biggest pre-Alzheimer’s indicators in brain imaging. Therefore, lowering blood pressure might be one of the most important and beneficial factors of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is primarily known for its tremendous impact on excess weight. It is no news that excess weight can harm your overall health. Obesity and weight gain are linked to several chronic diseases, the most common of which are heart diseases, diabetes, and hypertension.
As discussed above, hypertension is a factor in declining brain health and function. There are several indicators that obesity directly affects mental health too.
Several emerging studies have determined that obesity is associated with common mental illnesses like depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, and body dysmorphia. As intermittent fasting is effective in helping you lose weight, it will further encourage better physiological and mental health.
Sleep is one of the most critical aspects of your daily routine for brain health. Several processes in your body occur as you sleep and are crucial for physiological and mental health, including autophagy. Autophagy is the process where your brain filters all the toxins and clears out old and damaged cells, essentially “cleaning out the trash” from your brain.
This cleansing of toxins and debris from your brain creates space for neurogenesis and the generation of newer and healthier cells.
Intermittent fasting has shown tremendous results in engaging autophagy and maintaining it nightly. Autophagy plays a huge role in preventing neurodegeneration and necrosis. It also tremendously affects combating cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and several other chronic diseases.
Lowered Blood Sugar Levels
Intermittent fasting involves a process known as metabolic switching, where your body shifts from using sugar to using fat as an energy source when your body’s sugar stores run low.
This process encourages your body to regulate the insulin levels in your blood more thoroughly, improving your insulin sensitivity. This improved insulin sensitivity prevents high blood sugar levels in your body and averts type 2 diabetes.
Research shows that higher blood sugar levels result in a smaller hippocampus in the brain. This seahorse-shaped structure in your brain is responsible for mood, learning, and memory.
Anxiety and depression are very common in patients with type 2 diabetes, and high blood sugar is the leading factor. If you want to maximize the impact of intermittent fasting, you can couple it with foods you should eat and others to avoid for a healthy brain.
While the immediate effects of intermittent fasting may be increased irritability as you start feeling hungry, the long-term effects show several positive signs in the mood area.
Participants in a study reported a much better mood and decreased feelings of anger, confusion, and tension after a three-month intermittent fasting. Another study associated intermittent fasting with a significant impact on overall emotional well-being and reduced cases of depression.