The study was led by the Professor Valter Longo, known for his work on the therapeutic fasting. Featured in Cell Reports on September 27, she demonstrated that fasting could be effective in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia. This is not the first time that fasting has paid off against disease. Previous studies have already proven its effectiveness against cancer, digestive diseases or even against Covid-19.
The researchers subjected mice, genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s disease, to periods of fasting. It turns out that the fasting mice had lower levels of beta-amyloid and of tau protein (main driver of dementia). Scientists have also found that cerebral inflammation decreased. And above all, the fasted mice showed better performance on cognitive tests compared to those fed a standard diet.
Alzheimer’s: less cognitive decline in mice subjected to fasting
Fasting mice were fed a diet high in unsaturated fats (good fats) and low in calories, protein and carbohydrates. During the study, they fasted for 4 or 5 days twice a month.
The fasting mice showed lower levels of beta-amyloid – which forms the sticky, disruptive plaques in the brain – and tau protein compared to mice on a standard diet.
The researchers also note that the mice subjected to the diet showed a lower level of oxidative stress which plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease by damaging neurons and contributing to the buildup of amyloid in the brain.
Concretely, cognitive decline was less than in the latter compared to their counterparts subjected to a standard diet. Cognitive behavior, including exploration and performance in mazes, was tested in young mice before starting the diet.
Fasting against Alzheimer’s: what results on human patients?
In addition to mice, Valter Longo and his team also included results from a Phase 1 clinical trial conducted on humans diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Forty of these patients were randomized to receive, either once a month, a diet mimicking 5 day fast, i.e. a period of 5 days during which lunch or dinner was replaced by a meal based on pasta or rice.
The results were promising to fight against the dementia, but not only. Other advantages have been put forward, such as loss of body fat without loss of muscle mass and an improvement in cardiometabolic risk factors, especially in overweight or obese people.