Dr. Mattson asserts that intermittent fasting (IF) has many brain benefits — even more than a ketogenic diet but they also share many similarities. Intermittent fasting increases activity in neural networks to a greater extent than a ketogenic diet. During the ketogenic diet, neurons switch from using glucose to ketones. Ketones are a good energy source and have signaling functions, but evidence suggests that this is more limited than what occurs during IF, exercise, and intellectual activation of the brain. Moreover, IF, intermittent exercise and intellectual stimulation increase neurotrophic factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, essential for learning and memory and plays a role in appetite). In this clip, Dr. Mark Mattson outlines the differences between intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet concerning benefits to the brain.
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A type of protein that acts on neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems. BDNF is a type of neurotrophin – or growth factor – that controls and promotes the growth of new neurons. It is active in the hippocampus, cortex, cerebellum, and basal forebrain – areas involved in learning, long term memory, and executive function. Rodent studies suggest that lactate, one of many so-called exerkines, mediates some of the benefits of exercise on learning and memory via inducing neuronal BDNF expression. Exercise in combination with heat stress increases BDNF more effectively than exercise alone. BDNF is a profoundly universal point of convergence for mechanistically explaining essentially all known activities that promote brain health.
A neurotransmitter produced in the brain that blocks impulses between nerve cells. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in gray matter.
A broad term that describes periods of voluntary abstention from food and (non-water) drinks, lasting several hours to days. Depending on the length of the fasting period and a variety of other factors, intermittent fasting may promote certain beneficial metabolic processes, such as the increased production of ketones due to the use of stored fat as an energy source. The phrase “intermittent fasting” may refer to any of the following:
A diet that causes the body to oxidize fat to produce ketones for energy. A ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in proteins and fats. For many years, the ketogenic diet has been used in the clinical setting to reduce seizures in children. It is currently being investigated for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, weight loss, and cancer.
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