Fasting may preserve brain health, new research suggests.
A low-fat diet that includes 40 per cent fewer calories then recommended intakes reduces inflammation in mice’s brain cells, a study found today.
Such eating plans also maintain the function of brain tissue, the research adds.
Lead author Dr Bart Eggen from the University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands, said: ‘Ageing-induced inflammatory activation of microglia could only be prevented when mice were fed a low-fat diet in combination with limited calorific intake.
‘A low-fat diet per se was not sufficient to prevent these changes.’
Microglia is a type of cell in the brain that helps to maintain the proper function of the organ’s tissue.
Results further suggest cutting calories is more effective at maintaining brain health than exercise.
Brain-cell inflammation has been linked to conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Rasmussen’s encephalitis, which can cause seizures and eventual dementia.
The researchers note the mice in their study were only given one type of diet throughout their lives.
It is unclear if switching from a low-fat eating plan could reverse the effects of consuming fatty, unhealthy food.
The researchers are also unsure whether the animals’ diets affect their cognitive performances.
Dr Eggen added: ‘Nevertheless, these data do show that, in mice, the fat content of a diet is an important parameter in terms of the detrimental effects of aging on the brain, as well as caloric intake.
‘Only when fat content and caloric intake are limited, can aging-induced changes in microglia be prevented.’
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience.
The researchers exposed six-month-old mice to either a high or low-fat diet.
They then analysed the impact of such diets on the rodents’ brain inflammation.
The experiment was repeated in two-year-old mice who were either given access to a running wheel they could use as they wished or they had their calorie intake reduced by 40 per cent.
This comes after research released last month suggested the human brain becomes ‘old’ at just 25.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is found in the brain and spinal cord, changes its speed of movement in people older than mid-20s, a Lancaster University study found.
These movements are linked to breathing and heart rates, with CSF changes previously being associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure.
It is unclear if these CSF changes are linked to brain disorders that typically affect the elderly, such as dementia.
Previous research suggests the volume and weight of the brain begins to decline by around five per cent per decade when a person reaches 40 years old.