May 9, 2007 at 2:21 am #105227imported_AdminParticipant
Intermittent fasting as an alternative approach
Studies by Mark P. Mattson, Ph. D., chief of the National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) Laboratory of Neurosciences, and colleagues have found that intermittent fasting and calorie restriction affect the progression of diseases similar to Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease in mice (PMID 11119686). In one study, rats and mice ate a low-calorie diet or were deprived of food for 24 hours every other day (PMID 12724520). Both methods improved glucose metabolism, increased insulin sensitivity, and increased stress resistance. Researchers have long been aware that calorie restriction extends lifespan, but this study showed that improved glucose metabolism also protects neurons in experimental models of Parkinson’s and stroke.
Another NIA study found that intermittent fasting and calorie restriction delays the onset of Huntington’s disease-like symptoms in mice and prolongs their lives (PMID 12589027). Huntington’s disease (HD), a genetic disorder, results from neuronal degeneration in the striatum. This neurodegeneration results in difficulties with movements that include walking, speaking, eating, and swallowing. People with Huntington’s also exhibit an abnormal, diabetes-like metabolism that causes them to lose weight progressively.
This NIA study compared adult HD mice who ate as much as they wanted to HD mice who were kept on an intermittent fasting diet during adulthood. HD mice possess the abnormal human gene huntingtin and exhibit clinical signs of the disease, including abnormal metabolism and neurodegeneration in the striatum. The mice on the fasting program developed clinical signs of the disease about 12 days later and lived 10 to 15% longer than the free-fed mice. The brains of the fasting mice also showed less degeneration. Those on the fasting program also regulated their glucose levels better and did not lose weight as quickly as the other mice. Researchers found that fasting mice had higher brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. BDNF protects neurons and stimulates their growth. Fasting mice also had high levels of heat-shock protein-70 (Hsp70, which increases cellular resistance to stress.
Another NIA study indicates that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than cutting calorie intake. Researchers let a control group of mice eat freely. Another group was fed 60% of the calories that the control group consumed. A third group was fasted for 24 hours, then permitted to free-feed.  According to an Associated Press article (29 April 2003), the fasting mice “didn’t cut total calories because they ate twice as much on days they weren’t fasting. Both the fasting mice and those on a restricted diet had significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels than the free-fed controls. A toxin that damages hippocampal cells was injected in all of the mice. Hippocampal damage is associated with Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, the scientists found less damage in the brains of the fasting mice than in those that ate either a restricted or a normal diet. The NIA is planning a human study that will compare a group eating three meals a day with a group eating the same diet and amount of food within four hours and then fasting 20 hours.”
In a television interview with Meredith MacRae c. 1984, Roy Walford mentions intermittent fasting and its dramatic effects on animal life span through “undernutrition without malnutrition”
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