Intermittent Fasting Revolution: Q&A With Neuroscientist Mark Mattson


Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson shares his insights on what we all know — and what we don’t — about intermittent fasting and mind well being.

More and more, scientists have been targeted on numerous way of life selections as methods to spice up mind well being and cut back Alzheimer’s danger. With regards to intermittent fasting, the consuming sample has proven promising advantages in animal research for a bunch of well being circumstances, together with weight problems, diabetes, heart problems and neurological problems like Alzheimer’s. Whereas far more analysis is required to find out intermittent fasting’s results on mind well being, these animal research have since paved the way in which for analysis in people.

Being Affected person spoke with Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins College and creator of The Intermittent Fasting Revolution: The Science of Optimizing Well being and Enhancing Efficiency (Feb. 2022), concerning the organic mechanisms that underpin the potential of this method for enhancing mind operate and well being at giant. He additionally discusses the unknowns that stay concerning the impacts of intermittent fasting on mind well being.

Being Affected person: What can we learn about intermittent fasting, and why, if in any respect, is it helpful for well being?

Mark Mattson: We all know rather a lot about intermittent fasting from the attitude of serving to folks get their weight down and enhance their glucose regulation.

Many research in people evaluate three meals a day plus snacks to restricted consuming — or one other method we’ve used with a bunch in England a very long time in the past [that’s] now referred to as 5:2 intermittent fasting (two days per week consuming just one moderate-sized meal every day) — [show that] these [two latter] consuming patterns have adequate time with no meals to trigger a metabolic change from utilizing glucose within the liver to utilizing ketones, which come from fat.

Ketones are a very good gasoline for neurons. We all know that for positive. We additionally know that ketogenic diets and likewise fasting can suppress epileptic seizures. The truth is, ketogenic diets are nonetheless used for some sufferers who don’t reply nicely to epilepsy medicine. Work in my lab in animals [has] proven what’s happening within the mind to clarify that helpful impact of ketones.

Being Affected person: What about for mind well being, particularly?

Mark Mattson: I’ve to get in briefly to a bit of neuroscience. If I have been to ask your listeners or viewers what neurotransmitters they’ve heard of, they may say dopamine or serotonin. However it seems essentially the most plentiful and necessary neurotransmitter within the mind is glutamate. It’s an amino acid — an excitatory transmitter — and over 90 % of the neurons all through the mind use glutamate. These glutamatergic neurons degenerate in Alzheimer’s illness.

Really, it seems that Alzheimer’s sufferers have elevated incidence of seizures, like 20- to 30-fold over age-matched folks with out Alzheimer’s. There’s this hyper-excitability — unconstrained, improperly regulated exercise in these excitatory circuits. What intermittent fasting does is it quiets these neurons by truly growing the exercise of inhibitory neurons. They use the neurotransmitter GABA.

Plenty of research in animals have proven that in comparison with advert libitum feeding, intermittent fasting can improve studying and reminiscence, and even has an anti-anxiety impact as soon as the animals are tailored to the brand new intermittent fasting consuming sample.

Being Affected person: Glucose is the traditional gasoline of our brains, however we will change vitality sources to ketones. So, is altering vitality sources higher for our brains, or is it that ketones are a greater supply of gasoline for our brains?

Mark Mattson: Each are true: these aren’t mutually unique. You mentioned that our mind cells usually use glucose. That’s true if we’re consuming diets which have carbs in them. If we’re consuming a ketogenic weight loss program, or if we’re fasting, the neurons change from utilizing glucose to ketones. That’s been clearly demonstrated in people by Steve Cunnane the place he had folks change to ketogenic weight loss program and he measured each glucose and ketone utilization and confirmed there’s that change.

With Alzheimer’s, neurons have issues utilizing glucose. That’s been identified for many years and many years. Primarily based on Dr. Cunnnane’s work and a few of our’s in animals, we predict that neurons are nonetheless ready to make use of ketones even in people and animals which might be symptomatic with Alzheimer’s illness.

Being Affected person: The concept is that by holding our brains nicely fed, we create an setting the place issues are much less more likely to go mistaken, such because the build-up of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles; if now we have a wholesome stage of vitality supply, then maybe will probably be tougher to succeed in that tipping level the place the neurodegenerative course of or pathology begins. Is that right?

Mark Mattson: Very nicely mentioned. Experimentally, one can present that if you happen to compromise the vitality ranges in neurons, and that is in animal research or neurons in a dish, then they produce extra amyloid beta peptide and so they’re extra susceptible to being broken by the amyloid. They’re additionally extra susceptible to hyperexcitability and what we name excitotoxic harm.

Being Affected person: What’s the state of the analysis in intermittent fasting?

Mark Mattson: I’m actually enthusiastic about all this as a result of simply within the final 5 to seven years, there was an exponential enhance within the variety of human research.

I used to be invited with a colleague of mine to write down an article for the New England Journal of Drugs a number of years in the past. They’d two causes for inviting us to do it. One was there’s not sufficient information from people, notably folks with weight problems or insulin resistance, to advantage a assessment article. But additionally, plenty of physicians hadn’t heard of intermittent fasting or that they had no concept that there’s truly plenty of science, together with an growing variety of scientific trials.

Now, if you happen to go on, which is the place you go to search out all the continuing trials, and if you happen to put within the phrases intermittent fasting, there’s like 150 trials ongoing, starting from numerous cancers, diabetes, weight problems. delicate cognitive impairment and a few inflammatory neurological problems like a number of sclerosis.

What occurred was that the animal analysis actually didn’t begin until the late ’80s, early ’90s. It took a few many years to get plenty of animal information. Then, human research began and so they’re taking off now.

Being Affected person: Wanting forward, what extra do we have to learn about intermittent fasting?

Mark Mattson: For regular individuals who don’t have Alzheimer’s illness, we don’t know a lot in any respect, besides that they will bear this metabolic change from glucose to ketones when it comes to neurons of their mind utilizing them.

We now have a trial that’s nearly executed on the Nationwide Institute on Growing older, the place we took folks between the ages of 55 and 70 with weight problems. They’re additionally insulin resistant. We put them on both 5:2 intermittent fasting or [a] management consuming sample, which [are] breakfast, lunch and dinner. Earlier than we began them within the research after which on the finish of two months, we did a bunch of cognitive exams and different psychological exams. We’re doing useful magnetic resonance imaging to have a look at neural community exercise of their brains. And we’re doing another issues, for instance, analyzing their cerebrospinal fluid to see if a few of the issues we noticed change within the mind in animals with intermittent fasting additionally change in people. I can’t say something about it but — as a result of the research’s not executed, we haven’t printed it — besides that it’s trying encouraging.

However, extra research is required. There must be research specializing in the mind and people. There are plenty of anecdotal issues the place folks will say they skip breakfast and it’s been a pair months now; within the morning hours, they really feel like they’re actually productive and so they’re capable of suppose clearly and so forth. However from people, it’s plenty of anecdotal issues and never any true scientific information.

Being Affected person: With out fasting, can we use ketones dietary supplements like beta-hydroxybutyrate as an vitality supply for the mind?

Mark Mattson: The beta-hydroxybutyrate ester, a colleague of mine at NIH (Nationwide Institutes of Well being) developed that ketone ester. This was once I was a lab chief at NIH. I used to be a lab chief there for 20 years after which I retired, and now I’m on the college at Hopkins. We examined that ketone ester in our mouse mannequin of Alzheimer’s illness. It had helpful results.

Then, it’s now being examined by Steve Cunnane in sufferers with Alzheimer’s illness, and likewise a neurologist that I mentored goes to check it in sufferers with delicate cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s illness.

Being Affected person: Within the meantime, what’s your recommendation for enhancing one’s mind well being?

Mark Mattson: Primary: bodily train. [Then, there’s] cognitive train — notably what you and I are doing now, partaking in intellectually difficult issues — and moderation in calorie consumption and consuming a nutritious diet.

The interview has been edited for size and readability.

Contact Nicholas Chan at [email protected]