Diet has a significant impact on Alzheimer’s risk and can also influence the course of the disease. Not only the food consumed plays a role, but also the daily meal times. According to a new study, intermittent fasting could make a significant contribution to the fight against Alzheimer’s.
A research team from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine studied the therapeutic potential of circadian-modulating interventions in the form of time-restricted eating in mice. The surprising results were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Inner clock often disturbed in Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is often accompanied by disturbances in the circadian rhythm (biological clock), which regulates many of our physiological processes, the research team explains. In almost 80 percent of those affected by Alzheimer’s, corresponding problems, including sleep disturbances and a deterioration in cognitive functions in the evening or at night, can be identified.
It was therefore suspected that there was a connection between Alzheimer’s pathology and disruptions in the circadian rhythm. However, therapeutic approaches that target this aspect of the disease have so far been lacking, the team reports.
Benefits of time-limited food intake
The researchers have now tested such an approach in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. To do this, a group of mice were fed on a time-limited schedule that only allowed six hours of eating time per day, which would mean about 14 hours of fasting per day in humans, the researchers explain.
Compared to the control mice with unlimited food access, the animals fed the time-restricted schedule had better memory, a more regular sleep schedule, and fewer sleep disturbances. They were also less hyperactive at night.
And the test mice performed better than the control mice on cognitive tests, showing that time-restricted feeding could help alleviate the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the research team said.
Improvements at the molecular level
Improvements were also noticeable at the molecular level. According to the experts, when the mice were given time-restricted feeding, they had changes in the expression of several genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease and neuroinflammation.
And the amount of amyloid protein that accumulated in the brain was significantly lower, with these amyloid deposits forming one of the most well-known features of Alzheimer’s disease.
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Hopes for Alzheimer’s therapy
If these results are also confirmed in human studies, intermittent fasting with a corresponding limitation of the daily time window for food intake could actually make a contribution to Alzheimer’s treatment.
“For many years we assumed that the circadian rhythm disturbances that occur in people with Alzheimer’s were a result of neurodegeneration, but now we’re learning that perhaps it’s the other way around – the circadian rhythm disturbance could be a major cause of Alzheimer’s disease. be pathology,” sums up study author Prof. Dr. Paula Desplats of the UC San Diego School of Medicine.
Easy to implement in practice
The researchers are optimistic that the results can be easily transferred into practice, especially since the new treatment approach is based on a change in lifestyle and therefore does not have to go through any complex approval procedures such as drugs.
“Temporary feeding is a strategy that people can easily and immediately incorporate into their lives,” and the new approach offers “a simple way to dramatically improve the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and those who care for them,” said Dr . desplats (fp)