Following an intermittent fasting plan has been proven to improve the long-term memory of mice, a new study has revealed.
Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London discovered that an intermittent fasting plan is effective in promoting long-term memory retention and generating new adult hippocampal neurons in mice. The scientists hope this breakthrough has the potential to slow the advance of cognitive decline in older people.
The study, published in Molecular Biology, found that a calorie-restricted diet via fasting every other day was an effective means of promoting Klotho gene expression in mice. Klotho, often referred to as the ‘longevity gene’, has now been shown in this study to play a central role in the production of hippocampal adult-born new neurons or neurogenesis.
Adult-born hippocampal neurons are important for memory formation and their production declines with age, explaining in part cognitive decline in older people.
The effects of calorie control
The researchers divided female mice into three groups: a control group that received a standard diet of daily feeding, a daily calorie-restricted diet, and intermittent fasting in which the mice were fed every other day. The latter two groups were fed 10% less calories than the control.
Over the course of three months, the mice in the intermittent fasting group demonstrated improved long-term memory retention compared to the other groups. When the brains of these mice were studied, it was clear that the Klotho gene was upregulated, and neurogenesis increased compared to those that were on the calorie-restricted diet.
Dr Sandrine Thuret, from King’s IoPPN, said: “We now have a significantly greater understanding as to the reasons why intermittent fasting is an effective means of increasing adult neurogenesis. Our results demonstrate that Klotho is not only required, but plays a central role in adult neurogenesis, and suggests that intermittent fasting is an effective means of improving long-term memory retention in humans.”
Dr Thuret’s previous work has demonstrated that calorie-restricted diets in humans can improve memory function. That research showed that following an intermittent fasting plan can enhance learning processes and could affect age-associated cognitive impairment.
Dr Gisele Pereira Dias, from King’s IoPPN, said: “In demonstrating that intermittent fasting is a more effective means of improving long-term memory than other calorie-controlled diets, we’ve given ourselves an excellent means of going forwards. To see such significant improvements by lowering the total calorie intake by only 10% shows that there is a lot of promise.”
The researchers now hope to recreate this study with human participants in order to further explore the effects of an intermittent fasting plan.
The study was funded by the Medical Research Council (UK), the Psychiatry Research Trust, and the AHA-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment.