Neuroscientist Explains What Fasting Does To Your Brain & Why Big Pharma Won’t Study It

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The idea of fasting usually scares people because they doubt how long they can go without food.

They know fasting won’t kill them, but being hungry with a growling stomach all day isn’t appealing.

However, there are many different types of fasting.

You don’t have to go to the extreme of not eating anything for days.

One type of fasting, intermittent fasting, allows you to eat a little as long as your calorie intake is under 600 for the day.

In the western world, people are advised to eat three meals a day and told that breakfast is the more important meal of the day.

Yet, many studies are indicating that might not be the healthiest diet.

It could be better to skip breakfast altogether and routinely fast.

Health Benefits of Fasting

Research has shown that fasting comes with many health benefits, such as:

  1. Decreasing oxidated stress in organ systems
  2. Improving cognitive function
  3. Increasing stress resistance
  4. Lowering resting heart rate
  5. Decreasing blood pressure
  6. Reducing inflammation
  7. Extending lifespans
  8. Treating diabetes

Fasting is Backed by Top Researchers

Mark Mattson, Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging, gave a TEDx talk (see video below) on “Why Fasting Bolsters Brain Power.”

He also works as a professor of neuroscience at The John Hopkins University and is one of the top researchers in the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Why Fasting Bolsters Brain Power: Mark Mattson at TEDx

Mattson and other researchers have published papers on how fasting two times per week reduces the chance of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Another interesting finding is people who have epilepsy usually have fewer seizures when they fast.

Romans used to believe that people who had seizures were possessed by demons.

They discovered that if they locked them in a room without food, the seizures would stop.

Recent research has found that fasting can indeed minimize seizures in epileptic patients.

Fasting increases ketones in the brain, and ketones have been shown to reduce seizures in those who have epilepsy.

Some calorie restriction studies have found that lifespans are lengthened and the ability to fight off chronic disease is enhanced as well.

The Similarities Between Fasting and Exercise

Because fasting is a challenge for the brain, it adapts stress response pathways that help the brain cope with stress.

The changes that occur in a person’s brain during fasting are similar to those that happen during exercise.

Like regularly exercising, fasting boosts the production of protein in the brain.

The extra protein is used to promote the growth of neurons, strength of synapses, and connections between neurons.

Mitochondria are responsible for energy in the cells. Fasting leads to the increase of mitochondria in cells.

With an increased number of mitochondria in neurons, neurons have a better chance at forming and maintaining connections between each other.

When neurons form and maintain strong connections with each other, you learn easier and have a better memory.

Fasting also stimulates the production of new nerve cells in the hippocampus from stem cells.

How Fasting Improves the Immune System

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California indicated that periods of extended fasting protect the immune system and encourage immune system regeneration.

In light of the data, they concluded that fasting causes dormant cells to enter a state of self-renewal.

This study used participants who were receiving chemotherapy.

While the patients fasted, their bodies killed off old, damaged immune system cells.

As their bodies rebounded, their stem cells created new, healthy immune system cells.

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Don’t Jump Into Fasting Without Doing Sufficient Research

Excited by the benefits of fasting, some people jump into it too quickly and then write it off when it’s too difficult for them.

If you’re accustomed to eating three meals a day with snacks in between, you shouldn’t start on a prolonged fast.

Even fasting entirely for one day would be too much for you in the beginning.

Gradually work your way into fasting by minimizing your calorie intake for one day.

With practice, you’ll be able to safely and comfortably fast for longer periods.

You must do sufficient research before fasting to make sure you understand how to do it correctly and safely.

There are many different ways and schedules for fasting, so you should be aware of the possiblities in order to find the one that’s right for your unique body.

Intermittent Fasting Plans

A fasting plan that is good for beginners is the 5:2 Diet.

The 5:2 diet allows you eat normally five days of the week and reduce your calorie intake to 1/4 of your regular calorie consumption for the remaining two days.

It is good to have at least one normal eating day in between your two fasting days to make it easier on you to stick with the plan.

On the fasting days, you must also drink a lot of water and tea to stay hydrated.

The importance of hydration can’t be overstated.

Dr. Mercola 5:2 intermittent fasting diet
photo via

Another fasting method that’s good for beginners and recommended by Dr. Joseph Mercola (see video below) is to only eat between the hours of 11am and 7pm.

Eat healthy foods during this time.

A way to transition yourself to the 8 hour eating lifestyle is to avoid eating anything during the last three hours before your bedtime.

Only drink water and tea during that time.

Then, when you wake up, go as long as you can without eating breakfast.

Dr. Mercola: The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Famous Quotes on Fasting

Many thought leaders, philosophers, and intelligent men throughout history have fasted and discussed the benefits of fasting.

Here are a few examples of quotes on fasting from well-known fasters in human history:

  • “I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency.” – Plato
  • “Fasting is the greatest remedy — the physician within.” – Philippus Paracelsus
  • “A little starvation can really do more for the average sick man than can the best medicines and the best doctors.” – Mark Twain

Common Christian Questions Answered on Fasting

Pharmaceutical Companies Haven’t Researched Fasting Yet

Over the past few years, some pharmaceutical companies have been caught manipulating studies in order to make more profit.

Thus, consumers should keep their minds open to other sources of information and consider whether or not the study was biased.

Pharmaceutical companies would lose money if people adopted intermittent fasting lifestyles.

Fasting affects the brain in many positive ways, such as boosting ketones and improving neuron generation.

It can increase your energy levels and improve your cognitive skills.

Several studies have found that fasting helps prevent memory problems, boost the immune system, lengthen lifespans, and protect against cardiovascular disease.

Those who have epilepsy can see relief from fasting as well.

If you’re interested in trying fasting, remember to do your research first and start off small.

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About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

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