7 Incredible Things Intermittent Fasting Does for Your Brain
Intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular strategies for losing weight, and it’s touted as having many physical health benefits. But what does it do to your brain? Let’s take a deep dive into the research to find out what “time-restricted eating” really does to your brain.
1. Triggers autophagy
Intermittent fasting turns on an important process called autophagy, in which your brain “takes out the trash” that builds up during the day. This self-cleaning process helps detoxify the brain, clear out old and damaged cells, and sweep away debris. This nightly housekeeping promotes the regeneration of newer, healthier cells. A wealth of research has shown that problems with autophagy have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
2. Improves memory
Restricting the hours when you eat has been shown to significantly improve memory, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In this study, after 4 weeks of intermittent fasting, performance on a spatial planning and working memory task and on a working memory capacity test increased significantly. Additional research on animals has found that intermittent fasting improves learning and memory.
3. Brightens mood
Research in the Journal of Nutrition Health & Aging found that after 3 months of intermittent fasting, study participants reported improved moods and decreased tension, anger, and confusion. Another study from 2018 that was investigating weight-loss strategies found that intermittent fasting was associated with significant improvements in emotional well-being and depression.
4. Reduces inflammation
Chronic inflammation has been linked to many brain disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. According to a study in Nutrition Research, intermittent fasting decreases inflammation, which can have potent benefits for your brain health and mental well-being.
5. Fights high blood sugar
Research in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that intermittent fasting produces greater improvements in insulin sensitivity, which helps you prevent high blood-sugar levels and type 2 diabetes. The journal Neurology has published findings showing that high blood sugar is associated with a smaller hippocampus, the seahorse-shaped structure in your temporal lobes associated with mood, learning, and memory. Other studies show that anxiety and depression are 2-3 times higher in patients with type 2 diabetes than the general population.
6. Lowers blood pressure at night
Intermittent fasting helps reduce blood pressure while you snooze, which is beneficial for heart health, and anything that’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. Having hypertension or pre-hypertension lowers blood flow to the brain. Low blood flow on brain SPECT imaging scans has been seen with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and more. In addition, low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Burns excess fat
Intermittent fasting helps to burn more fat, which is good for brain health. Excess fat on your body is not your friend. A growing body of research, including studies in Archives of General Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine, has found that obesity is detrimental to brain health and is associated with a greater risk of depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia (fear of going out), and addictions.
With so much research pointing to important brain health benefits, you may want to incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle. What’s the best way to do it? One of the most common methods is to do a nightly fast for 12-16 hours. The easiest way to do it is to begin fasting several hours before bedtime. For example, if you eat dinner at 6 p.m., don’t eat again until 6–10 a.m. the next day.
At Amen Clinics, we take a whole-body approach to helping people overcome debilitating symptoms and achieve peak performance. We perform comprehensive evaluations that include brain SPECT imaging, as well as looking at the many lifestyle factors, such as diet, that can contribute to mental health symptoms or hold you back from reaching your potential. Our wrap-around services focus on the least toxic, most effective solutions, including brain health nutrition coaching.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and optimized their performance at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.