There is an increasing amount of science behind the health benefits of fasting
Fasting has long been touted as having spiritual benefits, but studies show that intermittent fasting is good for the brain and body as well.
In this TEDx talk, Mark Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging and a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins University, talks about what we now know about the health benefits of fasting. As one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders (like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)), Mattson and his team have published several papers about how fasting just twice a week can significantly lower our risk of developing one of these diseases.
HealthyCures, elaborating on Mattson’s TEDx Talk, reports that the brain benefits from fasting because of the neurochemical changes that happen to it when we go without food for periods of time. Fasting “improves cognitive function, increases neurotrophic factors, increases stress resistance and reduces inflammation.”
Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and your brain responds to that challenge by adapting stress response pathways which help your brain cope with stress and risk for disease. The same changes that occur in the brain during fasting mimic the changes that occur with regular exercise. They both increase the production of protein in the brain (neurotrophic factors), which in turn promotes the growth of neurons, the connection between neurons and the strength of synapses.
Intermittent fasting also enhances the ability of nerve cells to repair DNA, according to the article and Mattson’s work. And multiple studies about fasting published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) determined that fasting can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease and shows significant potential for treating diabetes.
It’s just something good to know, that while you are fasting for the good of your soul (and the world) your action may be a physical “good”, too.
Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content producer at Aleteia.