Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are also influenced by our diet and intermittent fasting can apparently have a neuroprotective effect, which is largely mediated by the intestinal flora.
In a recent review, researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China examined how changes in gut microbiota and their metabolites caused by intermittent fasting affect neural health. The results are published in the specialist magazine “Nutrients”.
Diet influences Alzheimer’s risk
Due to demographic change, the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is increasing sharply, and this development will only increase in the coming years. Effective approaches to prevention are therefore urgently needed and nutrition could be a decisive factor here.
Studies have already shown that, for example, nuts can help protect against Alzheimer’s, that certain fruits reduce the risk of dementia and that a diet high in carotenoids can halve the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Connection with the intestinal flora
Recent research has also shown how gut flora is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and that restricting the time window for food intake, known as intermittent fasting, is also linked to improved neurophysiological function.
Although the exact mechanisms of this positive effect are still unclear, a connection with the intestinal microbiome and its metabolites is suspected. In the new review, the team analyzed the potential neuroprotective effect of intermittent fasting with a particular focus on the intestinal flora.
Intermittent fasting with positive effects
The evaluation of the available studies has shown that intermittent fasting leads to changes in the composition of the intestinal flora and metabolite production and influences the integrity of the intestinal barrier and the function of the peripheral nervous system.
Intermittent fasting emerges as a potential strategy for strengthening the integrity of the intestinal barrier, showing benefits such as improved gastrointestinal function, improved intestinal barrier function, reduced entry of harmful substances, and increased intestinal immune cell activity, the team reports.
Fasting can also increase the concentration of short-chain fatty acids, which are crucial for the proliferation and differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells, reducing cell apoptosis and maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier.
New therapeutic options
The results could form a basis for the development of new preventive and therapeutic interventions against neurological diseases, but further clinical studies are first needed to examine the effects and the underlying mechanisms in more detail, the researchers explain.
Since there are numerous different forms of intermittent fasting, comparative studies between the different time limits on food intake are necessary in order to determine the most effective methods against neurological disorders.
According to the research team, the studies should also evaluate various strategies for regulating the intestinal flora, such as the use of probiotics, prebiotics or flora transplantation with regard to the neuroprotective effect.
Consider possible negative effects
Although intermittent fasting may have some promising benefits, there are also concerns about possible adverse effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms, eating disorders and hormonal problems.
Although these have not yet been clearly proven, the researchers emphasize that they should be considered medically when deciding on intermittent fasting. (fp)