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Fasting and dementia

Various types of calorie restriction and fasting dietary regimes have been adopted in all of the world throughout history, not only for religious and cultural reasons, but also as a way to save food in times of famine. Nobody likes to be hungry, but while having one’s stomach rumble might not be so pleasant, there probably is some value in restraining one’s self from eating too much.

While throughout history the advantages of caloric restriction and fasting were widely anecdotal, in recent times and especially in the last years there has been a growing number of studies and research on the health benefits of such practices, not only for weight loss, but for over-all health, including factors increased life-span, health-span, reduced inflammation and neuroprotection.

Until now most long-term studies have been conducted on animals, but the results seem promising and we can expect more and more long-term studies exploring health consequence of calorie restriction in humans to be conducted in the future.

Some scientists also advise designing specific calorie restriction dietary regimes to better fit the general population and particular individuals since most of the regimes studied until now are quite rigid and probably would be hard to follow for an average person. Besides, food has for humans a strong psychological and cultural component. Indeed, eating is pleasurable, and often times it is also a social activity, and how fun can it be to eat meagre salad while everybody else is enjoyin a massive buffet? For this reason, some scientists say that it might be worth thinking of less restrictive regimes which would still retain all the positive effects of calorie restriction and fasting.

Scientists also say that an obstacle towards adopting a low-calorie diet is modern lifestyle with high stress levels, which pushes us towards eating more, while we don’t do as much physical activity as it would be necessary to effectively consume the energy we store from food.

But doctors are starting to advise fasting as part of multimodal intervention regime to tackle dementia with positive results, albeit limited. Hopefully we will learn more in the future about the positive effects of eating less and less often.