September 2016 \\ Fasting
Fasting boosts the energy in the brain neurons and creates new nerve cells in the brain which leads to longer live and a sharper brain! A new study by xx concludes that it may reduce breast cancer as well.
As a side effect you may loose weight.
Most of this site is about the quality of the food we eat. But quantity is logically also important. There is important research which point towards that not eating at all for certain periods can have a beneficial impact on your health. Fasting has become increasingly popular the recent years and an integral part of many detox cures. But it’s far from a new idea. 400 years B.C. Plato said: “I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency”.
Many other great thinkers have sworn to fasting incl. Pathagoras, Gandhi and one the founders of Western medicine, Paracelsus. Also several religions have endorsed fasting like Muslims during Ramadan and within Buddhism fasting is considered a tool towards spiritual enlightenment.
During the initial 14-16 hours of not eating, your body burns through almost all of the carb (glycogen) the body stores in muscles and liver. Once those glycogen stores have been depleted, your body turns to fat stores for energy. So the cells in our body react to fasting in much the same way as they do to exercise, when the body is put under stress. Fasting shifts the body from using glucose as the primary resource to using fat, which is why fasting can also have a positive impact on weight loss. And the fact that fasting increases metabolism means it burns fat even faster.
When you are fasting ketone levels increase and that has a positive impact on the brain as it boosts the energy in the brain neurons. Basically fasting increase the ketones which then increase the mitochondria level. An increased mitochondria level increases the brains ability to form new synapses in the brain. More synapses mean better learning and memory ability. And being a biological stressor fasting provokes the survival instincts as the body will seek to fulfil it’s demand for food. Hence the neuron cells in the brain become more active and as with any other muscle the more we use it, the better it functions.
Like with exercise and cognitive challenges the brain is put under a positive stress while fasting, which makes it activate new pathways which improve cognitive skills and reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is proven that fasting (as well as exercise and cognitive use) can increase the production of new nerve cells from stem cells, i.e. you can improve the resources in your brain by fasting.
According to research by the National Institute on Aging at the John Hopkins University a large study done on mice shows that reducing the energy intake have beneficial impact on the brain. By stressing the brain it is motivated to adapt relevant stress response pathways. These new pathways can help the brain cope with stress and resist diseases, which is why fasting is linked to longevity See the TED talk for all the interesting points by Mark Mattson, Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging.
Besides being able to improve the cognitive skills, getting older and obviously design your body by fasting, a recent study shows that it reduces the risk of breast cancer.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, included 2413 participants who all had breast cancer. It showed that the women who fasted at least 13 hours a night had a 36% higher risk of relapse of breast cancer relative to women who didn't fast (2). So it is a good idea in terms of both weight sleep and detoxification not to snack between 8 o’clock in the evening to 9 o’clock next morning!
Ted talk by Mark Mattson,
Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging.
Although my cognitive challenges after my brain haemorrhage are limited it stroke me as really interesting knowledge and I decided to try a fasting retreat myself, primarily to see if fasting can improve the cognitive skills of people with an acquired brain injury like myself?
So in September 2016 I participated in a 5-day fasting retreat. As mentioned my primary interest was to investigate if it would impact my brain function although loosing some belly fat would be an added benefit. I joined a group of mainly middle aged women who's primary motivation generally was to loose weight. After being checked by a doctor and a physiotherapist (weight, blood pressure etc.) we were cleared to join the course.
During the course we checked our blood pressure every morning and all participants had a significant decrease in blood pressure. In a large study for people with hypertension (very high blood pressure) there was a significant decrease in blood pressure in almost all participants. It could be linked to not having any intake of sodium, which is linked to hypertension (2).
The highlight of the day was when we received a glass of juice (without fibers) in the morning. My taste buds were so alert that it was pure joy and bliss to have a glass of juice with apple, carrot, lemon and celery.
We were very physically active all days doing an hour of yoga and walking intensively for 2,5-3 hours every day. I thought I would be too tired for that level of physical exercise, but I and everybody else were surprisingly fresh during the morning. And the activity gave the mind some rest from the food craving. Every evening, however, I had a really strong craving for food and in my mind I was fantasising about delicious dishes. The rest of the group seemed to be much less impacted about the fasting than I was, which didn't make it easier :)
After sleeping it was as if the craving disappeared and I felt really good during the physical activity in the mornings.
On the 5th day I had lost 3 kg which was in the lower part of the spectre. People lost from 3-6 kg. during 5 days.
Mentally I felt very clear during the process. As if the brain was letting go of dullness and feeling more alert.
Post fasting I have been continuing with intermittent fasting 2 days a week where I only eat during an 8 hour interval which practically means that I skip breakfast and have lunch and dinner within an 8 hour interval. I’m absolutely convinced that fasting has a positive impact on my brain and I definitely feel more alert on my fasting days. I’m also trying to be conscious about not overeating as I can really feel how lazy and dull it makes me when I eat too much.