Intermittent Fasting Can Promote Long-Term Memory Retention

Intermittent fasting has officially replaced clean eating as the most popular diet, as reported by the International Food Information Council’s Food & Health Survey. The report indicates that around 10% of people aged 18 to 80 are into this regimen, for reasons such as a desire to lose weight, feel more energetic, prevent weight gain, and enjoy better all-round health. Research shows that intermittent fasting can have many benefits but one new study has found that it is also an effective means of improving long-term memory retention and of creating new adult hippocampal neurons in mice. The researchers hope that these findings can potentially help reduce cognitive decline in older adults.

Intermittent Fasting and Memory

There are many ways to carry out an intermittent fast, with the 16/8 (fasting for 16 hours, eating as usual for eight hours), 5:2 (eating as usual 5 days a week and fasting for 2), and Eat Stop Eat (going on a 24-hour fast once or twice a week). The basic idea behind intermittent fasting is to keep insulin levels down for long enough to kickstart the process of fat-burning. In the study, published in Molecular Biology, it was found that every-other-day fasting was an effective way to promote the expression of the ‘longevity gene’ in mice. This gene plays a central role in the growth and development of nerve tissue, suggesting that intermittent fasting could be a successful means of improving long-term memory retention as we get older. The study now affords scientists a greater understanding of exactly why intermittent fasting can help boost long-term memory in humans.

Intermittent Fasting, Learning and Memory

Previous studies had already shown that intermittent fasting improves learning and memory. One study (Li, 2013) showed that mice who were made to fast intermittently showed improved learning and memory, as measured by the Barnes maze and other tests. It also increased the thickness of specific structures in the hippocampus — a part of the brain that plays a major role in learning and memory. When the hippocampus is damaged or negatively affected by neurological or psychiatric disorders, a person’s memories (as well as their ability to form new ones) is affected. Hippocampus damage can particularly affect the ability to remember locations, directions, and orientations. It can be severely damaged by illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. The Li study also showed that intermittent fasting increased the ratio of glutathione (which acts as a vital antioxidant) and reduced the level of proteins associated with oxidative stress. The latter is strongly linked to brain aging. It can promote cell injury and impair learning and memory. 

A new study has illuminated the way in which intermittent fasting can help enhance low-term memory. It’s all got to do with the improved expression of the ‘longevity gene’, which plays an important role in the growth and development of nerve tissue. Intermittent fasting can also improve learning by reducing the prevalence of proteins that are linked to oxidative stress and brain aging.

Submitted by Ali Hull