As the largest resource of information specific to women's brain health, we are sure you will find what you are looking for, and promise that you will discover new information.
Published on: May 23, 2012
By Dean Olsen for The State Jornal-Register:
The scientific evidence is compelling, Mark Mattson says. Reducing your caloric intake and fasting regularly can prolong life, lead to a healthier life, and particularly help preserve brain function.
“Our genes, our genetics, are geared to us having food intermittently,” Mattson, an internationally recognized authority on calorie restriction, told an audience of about 120 people Tuesday during a medical-education conference at St. John’s Hospital on “healthy brain aging.”
Mattson, 55, a biologist, is laboratory chief of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore. He said he knows it’s heresy for some people to consider anything other than the American standard of three meals a day. But three meals a day isn’t what the research indicates is best for promoting a long, healthy life or for delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, he said.
“I’m comfortable with saying that it’s healthy, it’s fine, to skip meals,” he said after his presentation. “The animal studies are very clear.”
Other speakers at the conference said the same lifestyle factors that put many Americans at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure — such as obesity and diets high in sugar, salt and red meat — also increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Those connections don’t bode well amid the current epidemic of obesity and the aging of the baby boom generation, said Ron Zec, a neuropsychologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders. The center sponsored the conference.
“The baby boom generation is going to turn into the Alzheimer’s boom generation,” Zec said.
Both fasting and periods during which a person severely limits caloric intake are referred to by scientists as “intermittent energy restriction.” This practice has been shown in animal models to put nerve cells through a sort of beneficial stress, Mattson said.
Scientists believe caloric restriction may promote more DNA repair and other beneficial activities at the cellular level, he said. When combined with regular exercise, the benefits multiply, he said.
Mattson is not a fan of grazing, or eating multiple meals and snacks each day. “I think it’s better to eat one meal a day than six small meals,” he said. “You need to challenge your system.”
The conventional wisdom says people who skip a meal will overeat during the next meal and consumer just as much or more calories overall. But that’s not what the studies have shown, Mattson said. Most people end up consuming fewer calories, he said. Even people with chronic diseases such as cancer can benefit from caloric restrictions, depending on the stage of their disease, he said.
“Animals and people can get used to intermittent fasts,” he said. “You only have to be uncomfortable for a couple weeks. Then you get adapted to it, and it’s not a big deal. If you’re overweight, you should have some motivation to do it.”
The federal government doesn’t formally recommend what Mattson encourages, however, because he said not enough research in humans has been conducted. “I think it will be a while before there are any big changes in the diet recommendations,” he said.
Gap in education
In a few years, Mattson said, he would like to help develop curriculum materials for medical schools so doctors know more about the research and can recommended options for overweight individuals. Many doctors are skeptical about caloric restriction, he said.
“Any negative reaction is based on a deep-seated, internal desire to be able to eat three meals a day,” Mattson said. More research is needed on the optimal amount of caloric restriction, and educational materials need to be developed for the public, he said.
“That’s the big problem. It’s a huge gap,” he said.
Mattson said families need to be educated not to encourage children to eat everything on their plate. “And have them try to avoid the school lunch meals,” he said.
“It’s OK not to eat three meals a day,” Mattson said. “It’s OK a couple days a week to eat just one meal. It’s actually not only OK, it’s healthy.”
Consumption of canola oil is linked to weight gain and declines in memory and learning ability in mice that model Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Canola...
Low memory scores are an early marker of amyloid positivity, but have limited value as a screening measure for early Alzheimer’s disease among persons without dementia, according to a study published online in JAMA Psychiatry. Willemijn J....
Can the brain heal and preserve itself—or even improve its functioning—as we get older? For some time, many scientists have tended to think of our brains as machines, most commonly as computers,...
The material presented through the Think Tank feature on this website is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. WBHI strongly advises all questioners and viewers using this feature with health problems to consult a qualified physician, especially before starting any treatment. The materials provided on this website cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. The materials are not exhaustive and cannot always respect all the most recent research in all areas of medicine.