Intermittent fasting, also known as time-restricted eating, has gained popularity as a way to potentially improve health by altering the body’s natural circadian rhythms and reducing oxidative stress. This type of fasting involves alternating periods of fasting with periods of normal eating, and it may have a range of potential health benefits.
A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism sought to understand the effects of intermittent fasting on gene expression in the body and brain. Gene expression is the process by which the information contained in genes is read and used to create proteins. The researchers divided mice into two groups: one group had continuous access to food, while the other group practiced intermittent fasting and had access to food for only nine hours a day. After seven weeks, the researchers analyzed tissues from various organs, including the liver, stomach, lungs, heart, kidneys, intestines, and different parts of the brain.
The results were impressive: 70% of the genes in the mice responded to intermittent fasting. “By changing the timing of food intake, we were able to change gene expression,” said researcher Satchidananda Panda. “Not just in the stomach or the liver, but also in thousands of genes in the brain.” For example, the researchers found that the expression of 40% of the genes in the adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and pancreas changed as a result of intermittent fasting. These organs play a role in regulating hormone levels, which in turn coordinate important functions in the brain and body. Hormone imbalances have been linked to various conditions such as diabetes and stress disorders. These findings suggest that intermittent fasting may be able to help treat such conditions.
The results of the study are consistent with previous studies that have suggested that time-restricted eating may be beneficial for people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer. “We found that time-restricted eating has a systemic, molecular impact in mice,” Panda said. “Our results pave the way for a more detailed look at how this dietary intervention affects genes involved in specific diseases, such as cancer, and how it may influence other aspects of health.” However, it is important to note that these findings are based on a study conducted on mice, so it is not clear if the same effects would be observed in humans. Further research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of intermittent fasting.