Intermittent Fasting has gained popularity in recent years as a powerful tool for improving health and promoting weight loss. If you aren't familiar with Intermittent Fasting, check out our previous (and very popular!) blog post. Did you know that Intermittent Fasting can also have a profound impact on your brain health? Let's explore how Intermittent Fasting helps your body create brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and why this is crucial for maintaining cognitive function and overall well-being. If you aren't familiar with BDNF and its role in brain health, you can check out some of our past articles like “Unlocking the Secrets of Brain Health,” “How Your Brain Works,” and “The Aging Brain.”
Does This Feel Familiar?
Before we dive into the science behind Intermittent Fasting and BDNF, see if this story feels familiar. A middle-aged woman named Sarah, a successful lawyer with a busy schedule, has noticed a decline in her memory. She struggles to recall important details and feels mentally sluggish. She's worried about staying competitive with her colleagues at her law firm. And there's always that looming feeling about her brain health, especially since she's watched her mother decline. Frustrating things keep happening - she can't find her keys, she forgets why she walked into a room and what she was going to do when she got there, and she runs into people on the weekend and their names are just on the tip of her tongue. Sarah doesn't want to be an alarmist, but she's growing concerned about her brain health. She's also noticing the pounds are creeping up. Things are pretty go-go-go at the law firm, so her workouts are getting pared back. Sarah hops on Google, and to be honest, vanity wins out first...she starts by looking for ways she can lose weight.
While researching ways to lose weight that are lifestyle changes for long-term benefits, Sarah stumbles upon the concept of Intermittent Fasting. The potential benefits grab her attention. Sarah isn't one to go for the latest fad diet, she looks for good science-backed information. As she delves deeper into the beneficial effects of Intermittent Fasting, she also discovers her other concerns might be solved. Sarah feels pretty lucky! She may have just hit the jackpot because Intermittent Fasting and BDNF production for brain health go hand-in-hand.
Feeling lucky like Sarah?
Intermittent Fasting Creates BDNF For Better Brain Health
Researchers have found that Intermittent Fasting stimulates the production of BDNF in the brain and raises brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels circulating in the bloodstream. While there are many types of Intermittent Fasting schedules, they all cause the body to produce BDNF.
What's BDNF Again?
BDNF is a neuroprotein that plays a crucial role in promoting the growth and development of new neurons. BDNF is found throughout our bodies - in our lungs, bladders, hearts, GI tract (sometimes called the second brain), and brains. The neurons throughout your body use BDNF, but after 30 our natural ability to make BDNF declines. As your body loses its ability to make enough, all of your organs and tissues suffer.
When it comes to our brain cells, BDNF acts as a fertilizer, supporting their survival and enhancing their ability to form connections. BDNF research is booming with study after study showing that higher levels of BDNF result in improved memory, increased focus, and enhanced cognitive function. The people dubbed "super agers" by scientists - people who are active and sharp well past their 70s - in human trials and clinical research tests all have higher serum levels of BDNF. In fact, some of them have brain scans in clinical trials comparable to people in their 20s!
I'm sure your curiosity is piqued. So were scientists. They wanted to figure out how to raise BDNF production. And that's where things get interesting.
How Intermittent Fasting Is Good For Your Brain
There are several ways to increase BDNF: physical exercise, caloric restriction mimetics, specific nutrients, sun exposure, social interaction, and, of course, diet. all have neurotrophic effects. Scientists can measure BDNF levels in blood serum, plasma, and skeletal muscle.
Intermittent Fasting is a method of caloric restriction by cycling between periods of eating and fasting, typically on a daily basis. There are lots of "formulas," but generally, you're restricting yourself to an eating window either for certain hours each day (like 16 off/8 on), alternate day fasting, or by choosing specific days where food intake is restricted and then unrestricted for others (4 days restricted/3 days free.)
When we fast, our body goes into a state of ketosis and uses stored fat for energy instead of glucose from carbohydrates. This metabolic shift also triggers other physiological responses in the body, one of which is increased BDNF production.
Research conducted by Mattson et al. in 2003 demonstrated that Intermittent Fasting activates key cellular signaling pathways involved in the production of BDNF. Chen et al. showed in 2013 that fasting's influence on BDNF supports the building of new neural synapses. Subsequent studies have since corroborated Mattson's findings, further validating the link between Intermittent Fasting and increased BDNF levels. Mattson & Arumugam have produced multiple studies specifically focused on how restricted energy sources from short-term fasting slow down cognitive decline.
In addition to promoting BDNF production, Intermittent Fasting has also been found to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, promote autophagy (the body's natural process of removing damaged cells and toxic proteins), improve metabolic health, and increase resistance to stress - all of which contribute to better brain function.
Preliminary evidence also suggests that Intermittent Fasting may have positive effects on neurological conditions such as dementia, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and the impact of stroke. The synergetic effects of daily fasting, aerobic exercise, and key nutrient building blocks the body needs all point to a viable way to protect your brain from age-related decline and neurodegenerative and memory diseases. Short-term fasting actually has neuroprotective effects.
Why does Intermittent Fasting help improve brain health? Fasting is a form of stress, but a positive one. The metabolic switching of fasting causes the body to produce higher levels of BDNF, which promotes neuroplasticity - the brain's ability to reorganize itself and form new connections between neurons. In the creation process, new areas of the brain can be created, brain mass can be maintained, and existing brain cells can be rejuvenated. Both of these enhance brain regions responsible for cognitive function and memory retention and protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and associated β-amyloid levels.
From the smallest mitochondrial function to the daily calorie burn of our skeletal muscles just doing normal daily activities, along with our natural metabolic processes...it all takes energy. When we fast, our insulin levels decrease, allowing the body to access stored fat for energy. Human growth hormone (HGH) production also increases, promoting fat loss and muscle gain.
Staying in Ketosis - How To Get Nutrition Without Breaking Your Fast
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body primarily relies on ketone bodies for energy instead of glucose. To get into ketosis, you consume a very low-carbohydrate diet or undergo periods of intermittent fasting. Without a ready supply of carbohydrates, our bodies turn to stored fat as a primary fuel source and produce ketones as a byproduct.
By giving the body a break from constant food processing, Intermittent Fasting is an easy lifestyle change you can use to lose weight (that's always good) and it can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. That "easy" comes with a caveat, though: that intermittent metabolic switching can leave you hungry (or hangry), battling ravenous cravings, and, for many people, enduring splitting headaches.
The good news is that you don't have to forfeit the health and brain benefits of Intermittent Fasting because of hunger pangs and headaches. Research has shown that AminoSculpt Liquid Collagen, because of its triple hydrolyzed form, requires no digestion to supply high-quality protein peptides to the bloodstream - and your brain! This also means it won't break your fast; no more hangry headaches, no more standing up and getting dizzy, and no more watching the clock and obsessing on your next chance to eat.
While collagen supports your lean muscle mass, which increases your metabolism, it is also a vital component of the brain's extracellular matrix, providing structural support and facilitating communication between neurons. AminoSculpt Liquid Collagen can help nourish your brain, supporting functions such as memory, recall, and overall cognitive performance as well as your body.
AminoSculpt also contains all nine essential amino acids. These help your body create neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine for a better mood. You also get an ample supply of glycine, which helps you sleep well, which is crucial for brain health and helpful for weight loss. And, in the world of collagen products you can buy, only AminoSculpt includes tryptophan to help you feel calm and relaxed.
Is Intermittent Fasting For You?
Imagine waking up feeling refreshed and sharp, ready to take on the day with a clear mind, effortless memory, and fast recall. You effortlessly breeze through your daily tasks, feeling mentally alert and focused. It feels so good to be mentally agile, nimble, and quick. The tape measure shows some pleasing results, too: your clothes fit a bit better, and your joints are pain-free.
A quick serving of AminoSculpt first thing in the morning has you feeling full and fueled until your eating window arrives. You don't notice any cravings, and you're not counting the minutes until you can eat.
Sounds like a pretty great way to get through the day!
The benefits of Intermittent Fasting combined with AminoSculpt Liquid Collagen to hold you over during your window of calorie restriction -- what a wonderful way to build your body and brain.
Chen, A., Xiong, L.-J., Tong, Y., and Mao, M. (2013). Neuroprotective effect of brain-derived neurotrophic factor mediated by autophagy through the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway. Mol. Med. Rep. 8, 1011–1016.
Mattson, M. P., Moehl, K., Ghena, N., Schmaedick, M., and Cheng, A. (2018). Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 19, 63–80.
Mattson, M. P. (2019). An evolutionary perspective on why food overconsumption impairs cognition. Trends Cognitive Sci. 23, 200–212.
Mattson, M. P., and Arumugam, T. V. (2018). Hallmarks of brain aging: Adaptive and pathological modification by metabolic states. Cell. Metab. 27, 1176–1199
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Lisa Moretti is a Certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the largest nutrition school in the world. She was at the top of her cohort in 2015. She's professionally been involved in the natural health and supplement world since 1981.