Intermittent fasting could boost your biological defenses while reducing caloric intake, resulting in a healthier and longer life, according to a wide-ranging series of experiments done on animals and humans. Mark Mattson, head of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience laboratory, “thinks that intermittent fasting acts in part as a form of mild stress that continually revs up cellular defenses against molecular damage.” Levels of molecules known as ‘chaperon proteins,’ for example, which are known to prevent the incorrect assembly of other cellular molecules, are known to increase as a result of fasting.
What’s the Big Idea?
The world’s religions have long maintained that fasting is good for the soul, and modern science, which generally locates the soul in the mind, has found that the occasional deprivation of food effectively guards against mental disease. In one experiment Mattson performed on lab mice, he found that “fasting mice have higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that prevents stressed neurons from dying.” Low levels of BDNF have been linked to everything from depression to Alzheimer’s, although it is still unclear whether these findings reflect cause and effect.