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Calorie Intake Reduction and Brain Function

According to research performed by Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, reducing calorie intake two days a week may help decrease neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Research has shown that “intermittent fasting”, reducing calorie intake on two non-consecutive days per week, decreased the accumulation of amyloid plaques––the protein that is prevalent in Alzheimer’s disease and contributes to the destruction of nerve connections. Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase stem cell production in the hippocampus, the area in the brain where memories are formed, which leads to improved memory.

Mattson states, “Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and we think that your brain reacts by activating adaptive stress responses that help it cope with disease.” He says that when the brain is challenged, it produces a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), “which not only strengthens neural connections and increases the production of new neurons, but can also have an anti-depressive effect.”

There are two common approaches to intermittent fasting. The first is The 5:2 Diet, which limits caloric intake to 500 calories per day on non-consecutive fasting days, while eating a normal healthy diet (2,000 to 2,500 calories) on the remaining days. The second completely restricts caloric intake for 16 to 18 hours per day on the fasting days; caloric intake is limited to lunch and dinner on the fasting days.

Dr. Shayne N. Bushong is a diplomate of the College Board of Chiropractic Neurology and a Fellow of the American Board of Brain Injury and Rehabilitation. He is a practitioner at Lancaster Brain & Spine Rehabilitation Center, located at 1361 Fruitville Pike, in Lancaster, and 70 South Main St., in Manheim. For more information, call 717-299-9600.

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