Intermittent fasting seems an effective way to improve long term memory retention and generate new nerve cells in adult mice, according to a study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London (1). Researchers believe intermittent fasting may have the potential to slow the advance of cognitive decline in older people.
Over the past few years intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular and was even the trendiest weight-loss search term in 2019. Supporters claim incredible benefits, from weight loss to reversal of type 2 diabetes. Scientific evidence is somewhat limited in humans, but in mice is a different story. There’s a ton of studies obtained from these small rodents to support many benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol as well as contributing to sustained weight loss.
Now, this eating regime seems to have one more benefit.
A study published in the journal Molecular Biology discovered that feeding mice only every other day promoted a gene called Klotho. This gene is often called the “longevity gene” and plays a crucial role in producing new neurons in a part of the brain responsible for memory.
In the study, mice were divided into three groups: a control, a calorie-restricted and an intermittent fasting group, with mice fed every other day. After three months following this diet, the mice on intermittent fasting had much better long-term memory retention than the other groups. On closer investigation, the Klotho gene was active in these animals and promoted the proliferation of new nerve cells, which helped with their memory.
“We now have a significantly greater understanding as to the reasons why intermittent fasting is an effective means of increasing adult neurogenesis. Our results demonstrate that Klotho is not only required but plays a central role in adult neurogenesis and suggests that intermittent fasting is an effective means of improving long-term memory retention in humans”, said Dr Sandrine Thuret from King’s College.
This work goes a long way to explain results from Dr Thuret’s previous work, showing that calorie-restricted diets in humans can improve memory function (2). It’s not unreasonable to suggest that intermittent fasting can be used as a way to enhance learning and memory and slow down cognitive impairment associated with age.
Dr Gisele Pereira Dias also from King’s College said, “In demonstrating that intermittent fasting is a more effective means of improving long term memory than other calorie-controlled diets, we’ve given ourselves an excellent means of going forwards. To see such significant improvements by lowering the total calorie intake by only 10% shows that there is a lot of promise.”
The researchers now plan to conduct the same study in humans to determine conclusively how intermittent fasting can help long-term memory.
(1) Dias GP, Murphy T, Stangl D, Ahmet S, Morisse B, Nix A, Aimone LJ, Aimone JB, Kuro-O M, Gage FH, Thuret S (2021) Intermittent fasting enhances long-term memory consolidation, adult hippocampal neurogenesis, and expression of longevity gene Klotho. Mol Psychiatry. doi: 10.1038/s41380-021-01102-4.
(2) Kim C, Pinto A, Bordoli C, Buckner L, Kaplan P, Arenal I, Jeffcock E, Hall W, and Thuret S (2020) Energy Restriction Enhances Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis-Associated Memory after Four Weeks in an Adult Human Population with Central Obesity; a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients 2020, 12, 638; doi:10.3390/nu12030638