Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Before I dive deeper into my findings, I want to make it clear that anyone thinking about changing their diet habits, including fasting, should consult first with their doctors. Fasting can carry serious harming effects for some individuals, including those dealing with certain chronic diseases or regularly taking medications. So please, be safe and talk to your doctor first.
I bumped into this subject while researching about the inflammation response and diet. I was surprised to find a research article highlighting the possible benefits of intermittent fasting to reduce distress in cognition. This study used mice as their population and, among their findings, intermittent fasting was able to help alter distress in the adrenal gland and brain, according to the authors by reducing neuro-inflammation while improving learning and memory.
Of course, I then moved on to check any research involving humans and found a great study about intermittent fasting in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (meaning trouble with tasks like remembering, learning new things, focusing). In this study, intermittent fasting meant fasting weekly, two days a week from sunrise to sunset, no drinking during fasting. This research found that those older adults with mild cognitive impairment who regularly practiced intermittent fasting had better brain task related scores and even improved brain function after followed for 36 months.
As a researcher, naturally, I decided to dig deeper…what about individuals without cognitive impairment? Well, a study published at The New England Journal of Medicine proposed, among other benefits of intermittent fasting, that this practice helps to reduce obesity, lessen hypertension and inflammation. The authors, based on findings from a clinical trial, suggested an association between short-term caloric restriction and improved memory function in older adults.
So, what does this all mean? It means that studies are finding healthier brain function related to intermittent fasting and restricted caloric intake among some populations. More studies are needed, and results cannot be generalized at this point to all age groups and, more importantly, safety of intermittent fasting cannot be assured.
As for me, I intend to follow the research closely and openly speak with my doctor about it.