Intermittent Fasting Improves Long Term Memory

Summary: Mouse study reveals intermittent fasting improves long-term memory retention and promotes hippocampal neurogenesis. The findings could help to slow cognitive decline in older adults.

Source: King’s College London

A new study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London has established that Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an effective means of improving long term memory retention and generating new adult hippocampal neurons in mice, in what the researchers hope has the potential to slow the advance of cognitive decline in older people.

The study, published today in Molecular Biology, found that a calorie restricted diet via every other day fasting was an effective means of promoting Klotho gene expression in mice. Klotho, which is 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 researchers split female mice into three groups; a control group that received a standard diet of daily feeding, a daily Calorie Restricted (CR) diet, and Intermittent Fasting (IF) 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 IF group demonstrated improved long-term memory retention compared to the other groups. When the brains of these mice were studied, it was apparent that the Klotho gene was upregulated, and neurogenesis increased compared to those that were on the CR diet.

“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 IF is an effective means of improving long-term memory retention in humans.” Said Dr Sandrine Thuret, of King’s IoPPN.

Dr Thuret’s previous work has demonstrated that calorie restricted diets in humans can improve memory function. That research showed that IF can enhance learning processes and could affect age associated cognitive impairment.

this shows the outline of a woman and an hour glass
Intermittent Fasting is an effective means of improving long term memory retention and generating new adult hippocampal neurons in mice. Image is in the public domain

Dr Gisele Pereira Dias from King’s IoPPN said “In demonstrating that IF 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 IF.

Funding: This study was made possible thanks to funding from the Medical Research Council (UK), the Psychiatry Research Trust, and the AHA-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment. 

About this memory research news

Source: King’s College London
Contact: Sandrine Thuret – King’s College London
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
Intermittent fasting enhances long-term memory consolidation, adult hippocampal neurogenesis, and expression of longevity gene Klotho” by Gisele Pereira Dias, Tytus Murphy, Doris Stangl, Selda Ahmet, Benjamin Morisse, Alina Nix, Lindsey J. Aimone, James B. Aimone, Makoto Kuro-O, Fred H. Gage, Sandrine Thuret. Molecular Biology


Intermittent fasting enhances long-term memory consolidation, adult hippocampal neurogenesis, and expression of longevity gene Klotho

Daily calorie restriction (CR) and intermittent fasting (IF) enhance longevity and cognition but the effects and mechanisms that differentiate these two paradigms are unknown.

We examined whether IF in the form of every-other-day feeding enhances cognition and adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) when compared to a matched 10% daily CR intake and ad libitum conditions.

After 3 months under IF, female C57BL6 mice exhibited improved long-term memory retention. IF increased the number of BrdU-labeled cells and neuroblasts in the hippocampus, and microarray analysis revealed that the longevity gene Klotho (Kl) was upregulated in the hippocampus by IF only.

Furthermore, we found that downregulating Kl in human hippocampal progenitor cells led to decreased neurogenesis, whereas Kl overexpression increased neurogenesis. Finally, histological analysis of Kl knockout mice brains revealed that Kl is required for AHN, particularly in the dorsal hippocampus.

These data suggest that IF is superior to 10% CR in enhancing memory and identifies Kl as a novel candidate molecule that regulates the effects of IF on cognition likely via AHN enhancement.

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  1. Thank you for the information. I read everything I can on delaying the dementia and later Alzheimer’s I watched my mother go through and eventually die from. At that time a healthy diet and exercise were said to be key in the delay of this devastating disease, which I have to laugh at because my mother was an athlete and a health and wellness guru all her life. One thing I believe may have contributed to the onset of the disease was her strict low fat (and in her case it was no fat) diet. I’m now reading that the brain needs healthy fats (olive oil, flsh oil, avocados, etc.) for optimal function. So I’ve incorporated this into my lifestyle as well as eating gluten-free. By eliminating gluten, the morning brain fog I was experiencing immediately went away. As for intermittent fasting, I prefer the 3/12 method that Dr. Dale Bredesen explains in his book “The End of Alzheimer’s” and that is to simply not eat at least 3 hours before you go you bed, and don’t eat again for 12 hours after your last meal of the day. For example, if you eat dinner at 6pm do not go to bed until 9pm (or later). Your next meal should not be before 6am the next day. I’m finding this extremely helpful. The only problem I have with fasting is that I lose weight easily. I am 5’6″ and weigh between 120-125 lbs. Since I’ve adopted the 3/12 regimen, my weight is as low as 118 lbs. and I have to make myself eat so I won’t have a significant weight loss. But I do believe that intermittent fasting helps with focus, sharpness and the brain’s ability to process information quickly. And I also believe we are making significant progress toward eliminating dementia and Alzheimer’s through neuroscience studies like yours. Individuals who are experiencing early symptoms need to practice self-discipline. That is the key to finding their effectiveness.

  2. To the people who did this research, you are wrong! My mother would fast 250 days out of the year, and since the pandemic broke out, she now has dementia!!! So your fasting information is false and wrong! Do not write this bull and give people false hope. Very unprofessional!!!

    1. Intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day, or 182 days. 250 is overdoing it.

    2. Rhonda

      The first sentence in your comment is of interest to me as I am very aware that however well-founded the science may be in general, it is rarely applicable to every individual, at least to the degree of its potential effects.

      You will be aware yourself I am sure that the genetic make up of an individual may act to predispose a possible (good, bad or indifferent)outcome sooner or later.

      And in the case of your mother, very similar to me from your description, though I am male, I am 76 and have no underlying conditions or symptoms of any kind and never had in my life.

      I won’t go into my life story here but just to say that I am where I am now from the point of view of health, fitness, my life experiences and my perspective on life, in a very good place.

      If I wrote a book about my life, it would be called, “Because of or in Spite of?”

      Kind regards

      Chris in warm and sunny Thailand

  3. Thanks for this medical discoveries for all doctors involved,and that prove that Islam is the best to follow since it advised that Moslems must fast one month a year and advised moslems to fast 3 days a month if they want ???

  4. Good news. I have been on a time restricted eating regimen for over 2 years. Anytime you can get healthier without drugs it’s a major victory.

  5. Very interesting study. It will be interesting to see follow through with human subjects.

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