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Memory Boosted by Intermittent Fasting in Alzheimer’s Lab

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A groundbreaking study corrected the circadian disruptions seen in Alzheimer’s mice by using time-restricted feeding. This may improve sleep, sundowning, confusion and memory. (Video+Article)

A groundbreaking study used intermittent fasting in mice to correct the circadian disruptions seen in Alzheimer’s. The researchers used time-restricted feeding, a type of intermittent fasting focused on limiting the daily eating window without limiting the amount of food consumed.

The study was from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

The Physiology Behind Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Flexibility

Understanding the physiology behind intermittent fasting can clarify its health benefits. Intermittent fasting alters energy metabolism by shifting the body from glucose to fat burning. This metabolic shift enhances the body’s ability to use stored fat for energy, thereby improving metabolic health.

“Everyone’s metabolism is unique,” asserts Mia Dige, a Metabolic Coach and Personal Trainer at Lumen.me. “And its ability to switch between utilizing glucose and fatty acids as energy sources might differ.”

During fasting, your body shifts from using glucose to burning stored fat as its main energy source, marking a metabolic transition from carbohydrate to fat burning. Even without food intake, your body still needs energy, which it derives from stored glycogen and body fat.

Circadian Rhythm, Intermittent Fasting and Alzheimer’s

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock that regulates many of our physiological processes.

Nearly 80% of people with Alzheimer’s experience disruption of their circadian rhythm. This disruption results in:

  • difficulty sleeping and
  • worsening cognitive function at night.

However, there are no existing treatments for Alzheimer’s that target this aspect of the disease. Intermittent fasting may hold a new key to treatment.

Intermittent Fasting Resets the Body’s Clock

In the study, published in Cell Metabolism, mice that were fed on a time-restricted schedule showed improvements in:

  • memory and
  • reduced accumulation of amyloid proteins in the brain.

The authors say the findings will likely result in a human clinical trial.

Correcting the Circadian “Body Clock”

“For many years, we assumed that the circadian disruptions seen in people with Alzheimer’s are a result of neurodegeneration, but we’re now learning it may be the other way around — circadian disruption may be one of the main drivers of Alzheimer’s pathology,” said senior study author Paula Desplats, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“This makes circadian disruptions a promising target for new Alzheimer’s treatments, and our findings provide the proof-of-concept for an easy and accessible way to correct these disruptions.”

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 6 million Americans, and it is considered by many to be the biggest forthcoming health challenge in the United States.

Circadian Disruptions Cause Nursing Home Placements

People with Alzheimer’s experience a variety of disruptions to their circadian rhythms, including:

  1. changes to their sleep/wake cycle,
  2. increased cognitive impairment,
  3. confusion in the evenings, and
  4. difficulty falling and staying asleep.

“Circadian disruptions in Alzheimer’s are the leading cause of nursing home placement,” said Desplats. “Anything we can do to help patients restore their circadian rhythm will make a huge difference in how we manage Alzheimer’s in the clinic and how caregivers help patients manage the disease at home.”

Daniel Whittaker, PhD
Daniel Whittaker, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Desplats Lab at UC San Diego School of Medicine, led the mouse experiments and data analysis for the study. (Photo credit: UC San Diego Health Sciences.)

Boost the Circadian Clock

Boosting the circadian clock is an emerging approach to improving health outcomes, and one way to accomplish this is by controlling the daily cycle of feeding and fasting. The researchers tested this strategy in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, feeding the mice on a time-restricted schedule where they were only allowed to eat within a six-hour window each day. For humans, this would translate to about 14 hours of fasting each day.

Compared to control mice who were provided food at all hours, mice fed on the time-restricted schedule had:

  1. better memory,
  2. were less hyperactive at night,
  3. followed a more regular sleep schedule and
  4. experienced fewer disruptions during sleep.
  5. The test mice also performed better on cognitive assessments than control mice, demonstrating that the time-restricted feeding schedule was able to help mitigate the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Molecular Improvements, Too

The researchers also observed improvements in the mice on a molecular level.

  • In mice fed on a restricted schedule, the researchers found that multiple genes associated with Alzheimer’s and neuroinflammation were expressed differently.
  • They also found that the feeding schedule helped reduce the amount of amyloid protein that accumulated in the brain. Amyloid deposits are one of the most well-known features of Alzheimer’s disease.

Substantial Change in the Course of Alzheimer’s

Because the time-restricted feeding schedule was able to substantially change the course of Alzheimer’s in the mice, the researchers are optimistic that the findings could be easily translatable to the clinic, especially since the new treatment approach relies on a lifestyle change rather than a drug.

“Time-restricted feeding is a strategy that people can easily and immediately integrate into their lives,” said Desplats. “If we can reproduce our results in humans, this approach could be a simple way to dramatically improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them.”

MORE INFO:

    • Co-authors of the study include: Daniel S. Whittaker, Laila Akhmetova, Daniel Carlin, Haylie Romero and David K. Welsh, all at UC San Diego, and Christopher S. Colwell at UCLA.

    • This study was funded, in part, by the National Institute on Aging (grants AG061831 and 5T32AG066596-02) and the National Insititute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant P30NS047101).

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P. Berger

This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. It has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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