Skip to content
Search AI Powered

Latest Stories

If Your Diet Involves Intermittent Fasting, It's Probably Making You Smarter Too, and We're Intrigued

If Your Diet Involves Intermittent Fasting, It's Probably Making You Smarter Too, and We're Intrigued
(iweatherman/Flickr)

The ancient practice of fasting finds new acolytes for its brain-boosting benefits, further proven by a new study on mice.

Diets based on intermittent fasting — cycling between periods of eating normally and eating nothing — are all the rage right now, with everyone from Silicon Valley tech workers to celebrities like Hugh Jackman and The Rock extolling the benefits. But do they really work?

Yes, say experts, and not only do they result in weight loss, recent research shows they improve cognitive function as well.


Adherents to regimens such as 5:2 (eat for five days, fast for two days) have long maintained that intermittent fasting allows for increased productivity and focus, and a new study performed on mice backs up this claim.

As first reported by New Scientist, researchers at the National Institute of Aging studied 40 mice who were either given food every other day or provided their normal daily diet. Though both sets of mice consumed the same number of calories over the course of a week, the intermittent-fasting mice were found to have a 50 percent increase in a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF has been found to promote the growth of new nerve cells and synapses, resulting in improved cognitive function.

BDNF is stimulated by ketones, which are released when the body metabolizes fat stores. According to Dr. Mark Mattson of the National Institute of Aging, the human body can only run off glucose energy, which is stored in the liver, for 10-14 hours; after this point, the body switches to stored fat.

“When [glucose] stores are out, human, as well as animal bodies switch to fat stores, which are converted into compounds called ketones in the blood,” Mattson told The Daily Mail. “Ketones act directly on the nerve cells to stimulate production of BDNF and may help optimise cognition, learning and memory building.”

For this reason, simply eating less every day — while it may aid in weight loss — does not reap the cognitive benefits of intermittent fasting.

“People who eat three meals a day but have an overall relatively low calorie intake — between 1,800 and 2,000 — replenish their liver energy stores. So they may go six hours between meals, but that's not enough to elevate ketones,” Mattson said.

Despite its recent resurgence in popular culture, the practice of fasting to increase concentration, memory and creativity has been around for centuries. Not only is it a traditional spiritual practice in almost every major religion, fasting’s benefits were extolled by ancient Greeks such as Pythagoras. “Therapeutic fasting” was also considered a cure-all in the 19th century, used to treat everything from heart disease to allergies and obesity. According to Dr. Mattson of the National Institute of Aging, it follows, then, that human bodies may actually have been designed to fast for maximum health benefits.

“One would assume that in evolution, individuals whose brains did not function well in fasting state were likely not to survive,” Mattson said, “so, we evolved to eat intermittently, and it's important that the brain function well — perhaps even optimally — when we haven’t been able to eat for an extended time period.”

More from News

Screenshots of Kamala Harris and J.D. Vance
C-SPAN; NBC News

Kamala Harris Calls Out JD Vance For 'What He Didn't Say' During RNC Speech In Epic Takedown

In a fiery speech to supporters in North Carolina, Vice President Kamala Harris called out what J.D. Vance—former President Donald Trump's freshly selected running mate—"didn't say" in his speech accepting the VP nomination on Night 3 of the Republican National Convention.

Amid much talk about key conservative issues like immigration, the ongoing border crisis, and "law and order," he did not once mention what the GOP has explicitly laid out and is now attempting to distance itself from: Project 2025.

Keep ReadingShow less
Screenshot of Daniel Dale; Donald Trump
CNN; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CNN Fact-Checker Debunks Trump's RNC Speech Lies For 2 Minutes Straight—And Yeah, It's A Lot

CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale debunked lies former President Donald Trump told during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, dedicating two minutes to picking apart Trump's many falsehoods.

Trump made numerous oddball remarks during his speech, particularly his reference that the world was "at peace" when he was in office until his political opponents "turned it into a planet of war," declaring that the planet is now "blowing up around us" due to Democratic policies.

Keep ReadingShow less
Screenshots of Donald Trump and Tiffany Trump
C-SPAN

Trump Snubbed Daughter Tiffany As She Went In For A Kiss At The RNC—And People Are Team Tiffany

Social media users were sympathetic to Tiffany Trump after her father, former President Donald Trump, appeared to snub her as she went in for a kiss before his climactic speech accepting the GOP's presidential nomination.

Footage from early in the evening shows a smiling Tiffany walking up the stairs toward Trump, who clearly saw her. She then attempted to greet him with a kiss only to be ignored, as he looked out at the crowd beyond her, as she walked away looking dejected.

Keep ReadingShow less
Picture of Marjorie Taylor Greene seen on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart
The Daily Show

Jon Stewart Just Pointed Out The Weird Noise MTG Made During Her RNC Speech—And Now We Can't Unhear It

Jon Stewart had a lot to unpack on Tuesday's airing of The Daily Show, given a wild week that included the shocking assassination attempt on former Republican President Donald Trump as well as the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, which kicked off on Monday.

One specific highlight from the opening night of the RNC that Jon couldn't help but fixate on was far-right Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene making strange sounds while addressing delegates during her speech.

Keep ReadingShow less
Justin Long and wife Kate Bosworth
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Smile Train

Justin Long Shares Wife Kate Bosworth's 'Really Romantic' Reaction To Him Pooping The Bed

Warning: soiler alert. Graphic bowel movement descriptions ahead.

Actor Justin Long had a romantic e-poo-phany about how much he loved his wife, actor Kate Bosworth, when he soiled the bed after suffering from food poisoning during a trip to Mexico.

Keep ReadingShow less