New Studies Support The Warrior Diet's Brain Powering and Anti-Aging Effects
Author of The Warrior Diet
Following a recent phone conversation, Dr. Mark Mattson,
Ph.D., chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National
Institute on Aging (NIA) conducted recent studies on the effects
of intermittent fasting on mice. He generously offered to send me
additional documents with more compelling evidence as to the miraculous-like
benefits of following a feeding cycle that somewhat parallels The
Warrior Diet. Dr. Mattson also mentioned that there's a plan
in the near future to conduct human experiments to determine the
full impact of a daily cycle of undereating and overeating, similar
to the Warrior Diet way of eating. Nevertheless, I'd like
to cover here this new information with regard to the biological
benefits of this feeding cycle on the brain, muscles and the overall
anti-aging effect on the body.
Recent studies demonstrate that periodic fasting
and undereating have profound brain powering effects.
(Conducted at the Laboratory of Neurosciences, National
Institute on Aging Gerontology Research Center, Baltimore, MD; Laboratory
of Neurosciences and Comparative Medicine Section, National Institute
on Aging; Department of Human Genetics; and Department of Neuroscience,
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD)
Recent studies have shown that both calorie restrictions
(i.e., undereating) and intermittent fasting (i.e., fasting every
other day), with maintained vitamin and mineral intake, can extend
lifespan and can increase resistance to disease. The above studies
have shown that undereating can have profound effects on brain function
and decrease vulnerability to injury and diseases. Undereating can
protect neurons against degeneration in animals, models of Alzheimer's
Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease and stroke.
Moreover, undereating can stimulate the production of new neurons
from stem cells (neurogenesis) and can enhance synaptic elasticity,
which may increase the ability of the brain to resist aging and
restore function following injury.
Increasing Time Between Meals
Interestingly, increasing time intervals between
meals can have beneficial effects on the brain and overall health
of mice that are independent of calorie restrictions. Scientists
believe that the beneficial effects of calorie restriction and intermittent
fasting (with no calorie restrictions) appear to be the result of
a cellular stress response that stimulates the production of proteins
that enhance neuronal plasticity and resistance to metabolic and
oxidative insults. These proteins include neurotrophic factors such
as BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), HSP (Heat Shock Proteins)
and mitochondrial uncoupling proteins. It has been assumed that
certain kinds of stress such as due to periodic fasting, undereating
and physical exercise, may have similar beneficial effects on brain
and muscle tissue, respectively, by stimulating regeneration of
brain and muscle cells via activation of stress proteins and the
production of growth factors.
Meal Frequency Effects on Anti-aging
While dietary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
may somewhat improve the health span of the brain, the above recent
discoveries reveal that a more fundamental aspect of diet is emerging
as a major factor in brain health. This factor, which is the focus
of this article, is the time interval between feeding.
Both the amount of calories over time and the frequency
of meals affect the physiology of the brain in quite profound ways.
The two dietary restrictive methods that include either the reduction
of overall calories, such as due to undereating, or an increase
in the time between meals (with no calorie restrictions) while keeping
maintenance of dietary composition in terms of vitamins, minerals,
protein, fat, etc., effectively improves brain performance, resistance
to disease and overall aging.
Calorie Intake & Lifespan
The maximum lifespan of a range of organisms from
yeast and round worms to rodents and monkeys can be increased by
up to 50% simply by reducing their calorie intake. Calorie restrictions
reduce the incidents of age-related cancer, cardiovascular diseases
and immune deficiencies in rodents. Conversely, chronic high calorie
intake over time is a risk factor in cardiovascular disease, many
types of cancers, type II diabetes and stroke.
Less known is the evidence that calorie restriction
reduces disease risk and increases life span in individuals that
are not overweight. It has been hypothesized that chronic excessive
energy production in the form of cellular ATP over time may cause
cells to become damaged and "spoiled" and thereby susceptible
Primarily, in order to survive, organisms had to
adapt to changes in food availability. One such adaptation is the
ability to store energy in the form of glycogen and lipids. Another
adaptation mechanism is activated when food supply is scarce, and
the cells of organisms are forced with an energetic stress that
may induce changes in gene expression that result in adaptive changes
in cellular metabolism and the increased ability to resist stress.
On the other hand, when food supplies are constantly
plentiful, as in most laboratory animal colonies and human population
in industrial countries, individuals consume more calories or eat
more meals than are necessary for maintenance of their health and
therefore lose their ability to resist stress and disease.
Animals that were put on calorie restrictive diets
(30 to 40 percent reductions) and periodic fasting under which they
fasted every other day, and ate twice the calories the other day,
have demonstrated similar metabolic changes including decrease in
body temperature, decreased heart rate and blood pressure and decreased
glucose and insulin levels. Most importantly, the above dietary
methods have also been shown to have profound beneficial effects
on the brain. For example, dietary restrictions such as the above,
reduce age-related oxidative damage to proteins and DNA. Genes in
which expression has been adversely affected by aging, includes
those involved in oxidative stress response, innate immunity and
energy metabolism, were somehow protected against age-related damage
via calorie restrictions and intermittent fasting.
Among the physiological responses to the above dietary
restrictions there was a decrease in body fat, an increase in IGF1
levels as well as an increase in the "good cholesterol"
HDL. [Taken from data cited in Weidruch and Sohal (1997) and Lone
et. Al. (1999)]
It's important to note that, increased insulin sensitivity
and IGF1 levels generally mark an increase in the anabolic potential
of the body to build and repair tissue.
Anti-Aging: Improved Learning Capabilities
Dietary restrictions clearly benefited mice ability
to resist age-related brain deterioration. Both calorie restriction
and intermittent fasting improve age-associated deficits in motor
coordination and impaired learning.
Long term protection of the synaptic transmission
is believed to be a cellular correlate of learning and memory. The
age-related deficit in cognitive functions was largely abolished
by a reduced calorie diet and intermittent fasting. In one study,
rats that were maintained for three months on periodic fasting have
exhibited enhanced synaptosomes function including improved glucose
transport and mitochondrial functions. Positive effects of intermittent
fasting on age-related cellular reductions of brain neurotransmitters
were significant. The above dietary restrictions prevented age-related
alternations in the levels of serotonin and dopamine in rats.
Neurogenesis: Regeneration of Brain Cells
The adult brain contains a population of cells that
are capable of dividing and differentiating (converting) into neurons
(neurogenesis). Stem cells in an animal and human brain may provide
a cellular reserve to replace neuron that die as a result of injury
Interestingly, subtle physiological stress signals
can up-regulate neurogenesis. For example, increasing rats
level of physical exercise can enhance neurogenesis and thereby
improve brain function while suppressing overall aging. In addition,
neurogenesis and synaptic connections are affected by changes in
the levels of the sex steroid hormones testosterone and estrogen
[Alvarez - Buylla and Kim 1997, McEwen 2001]. Declining sex hormones
may adversely affect both sexual and brain power. That fact supports
the evidence that feeding cycles based on periodic fasting and overeating
would likely be more beneficial than chronic calorie restrictions.
The reason for that could be partly due to the positive effect of
overeating (no calorie restrictions) on sex hormone levels and overall
reproductive capabilities and vice-versa: chronic calorie restriction's
suppressive effect on sex hormones.
Neurotrophic Effects - Protection from Alzheimer's,
Epilepsy, Parkinson's Disease and Strokes
Rats maintained on periodic fasting for 2-4 months
exhibit increased resistance to excitotoxic degeneration in models
equivalent to Alzheimer's Disease (AD)
or pathological epilepsy. This neuroprotection resulted in preservation
of learning and memory ability that is normally compromised due
to these conditions.
Interestingly, periodic fasting can also counteract
adverse effects of nutrient deficiencies. For example, thiamine
(B1) deficiencies can cause the degeneration of neurons in certain
regions in the brain such as the thalamus. Rats that were maintained
on periodic fasting showed increased tolerance to thiamine deficiency.
Epidemiological evidence suggest that human
population on lower calories or less meals during the day have a
dramatic decrease in Alzheimer's disease. It has been suggested
that the Spartan approach to food intake, such as by eating one
meal per day, would greatly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's
disease, Parkinson's Disease and stroke,
the three devastating disorders that currently plague our society.
Anti-aging at the Cellular Level
Considerable evidence suggests that calorie restrictions
or periodic fasting protected the brain against disease by inducing
the expression of proteins that promote cell survival.
and other trophic factors
chapesones (HSPs, GRPs)
Proteins & Survival
Two major classes of survival proteins are protein
chaperones and neurotrophic factors.
Rats on periodic fasting exhibited increased levels
of Heat Shock Protein-70 (HSP-70) and Glucose Regulated Protein-78
(GRP-78). These protein chaperones can protect neurons against excitotoxic
and oxidative stress, suggesting that their increased levels contribute
to the neuroprotective effects of periodic fasting. In addition
to the above, studies have documented activities of several other
neuroprotective factors such as nerve growth factor, brain derived
neurotrophic factor (BDNF), fibroblastic growth factors and IGF1
[Mattson and Lindwal, 1997].
In general, the neurotrophic factors protect the
brain by inducing the expression of genes that encode proteins that
suppress oxidative stress and stabilize cellular calcium homeostasis.
As noted, scientists believe that the above beneficial effects of
periodic fasting or undereating (calorie reduction) on the brain
are related to cellular response to stress that may be induced by
periodic fasting, undereating or physiological hunger. The above
dietary restrictions caused a decrease in corticosteroid receptors
in brain cells and thereby attenuated cortisol impact on the brain.
Periodic Fasting & Undereating Effects On
Parallel to the benefits of periodic fasting and
undereating on the brain, the above dietary restrictions positively
affect peripheral organs such as muscle and liver cells. Periodic
fasting and undereating enhance muscle and liver insulin sensitivity.
BDNF, which increases via the above dietary methods, have high affinity
to a certain protein called IRS1, that
is coupled to insulin and IGF1 receptors. IRS1 is essential for
the activation of the PI3 Kinase - AKT pathway. In other words,
the above dietary restrictions enhance the actions of insulin and
IGF1 in the brain, muscle and liver cells and thereby help increase
energy utilization, tissue repair, growth potential and overall
performance. In addition to the above, a related increase in fibroblastic
growth factor activates the MAP (Mitogen Activated Protein) kinase
pathway, leading to further enhancement in cellular growth and tissue
Application to the Warrior Diet
More and more evidence shows that humans and animals
are destined to follow a feeding cycle that is based on periodic
undereating and overeating. Recent studies suggest that such feeding
cycles may have most beneficial effects on animal and human survival.
The Warrior Diet, based on following feeding cycles of undereating
and overeating, clearly marks an upcoming revolutionary dietary
trend that could be the most effective alternative to the current
dietary methods which are based on frequent feeding as well as chronic
calorie or carb restrictions. The effects of following feeding cycles
that include periodic undereating and overheating either on a daily
basis or via macros cycles which are based on intermittent undereating
(undereating every other day), have already been proven by many
testimonials and anecdotal evidence to be most beneficial with regard
to brain and physical power as well as over all improvements in
body composition (i.e., losing a fat and building lean tissue).
As Dr. Mattson stated in a recent phone conversation,
more research is needed to finally realize the full impact of the
Warrior Diet feeding cycle. According to Dr. Mattson, human experiments
on diets similar to the Warrior Diet are scheduled to begin in about
eight to nine months from now. It would also be interesting to see
the effects of exercise on the above dietary cycle. Nonetheless,
in life, the issue of what comes first, the horse or the carriage,
isn't always practically relevant. It seems as if the Warrior Diet
gives you a wild horse to ride on first, while the planned scientific
studies would bring on the carriage so you can sit more comfortably
during the ride. Regardless of whether you're riding the horse or
the carriage, there is only one right direction in which to go and
the Warrior Diet shows you that way.
Research Report References:
R. Michael Anson *, Zhihong Guo *, Rafael de Cabo,
Titilola Iyun, Michelle Rios, Adrienne Hagepanos, Donald K. Ingram,
Mark A. Lane , and Mark P. Mattson, "Intermittent fasting dissociates
beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism
and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake", Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition the week
of April 30, 2003
*W. Duan, Z. Guo, H. Jaing, M.
Ware, X-J. Li, and M. P. Mattson, "Dietary Restriction Normalizes Glucose
Metabolism and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels, Slows Disease
Progression and Increases Survival in Huntington Mutant Mice"
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition
the week of February 10.
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