Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Fasting Day 20 -- 142.8

I posted the following on the yahoo fasting group

A recent article, "Overeating Could Be Due To Lack Of Brain Chemical Caused By Faulty Gene ", in Medical News Today states:

"Using genetically altered mice, scientists in the US have shown that lack of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in certain parts of the brain, leads to overreating and may be a contributing factor to the rising obesity epidemic. The researchers said the study is relevant to humans because, for instance, a quarter of Americans are estimated to carry the mutated form of the BDNF gene."....

This is interesting to me, because I've recently been reading studies around the internet on Matt Mattson's work showing that intermittent fasting increases BDNF in animal models. I found numerous references when googling Matt Mattson BDNF, such as this one, "Fasting Away Disease"

.... "Study author Mark Mattson, Ph.D., hypothesizes that intermittent fasting works because each fast is a mild stress. The animals respond by increasing production of substances known as stress-resistance proteins, which may make them more resistant to disease. In addition, the intermittently fasting mice produce more of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes learning, memory and the growth and survival of nerve cells. This BDNF appears to make the animals more resistant to a neurotoxin that produces brain damage similar to Alzheimer's disease, Mattson says.

The intermittently fasting animals' cells also become more adept at scavenging glucose from blood. That, says Mattson, is an antidiabetic effect, detectable on glucose tolerance tests." ....

It's my personal belief that this so-called "mutation" enabled our ancestors to survive periods of famine. Perhaps those of us who inherited this "faulty" gene actually have a biological need for fasting to maintain health.

Perhaps "biological need" was too strong of a phrase. Perhaps I should have said instead that fasting is helpful to maintain health in times of plentiful food supply. Look at what happens to a desert cactus as an over watered, over nourished houseplant. The pitiful thing rots and dies. This marvelous plant has adapted to survive in a harsh climate -- indeed it truly needs the time without water in order to thrive. It stores the water to be used later as it is needed. Couldn't some of our bodies have adapted just such a mechanism to utilize our nutrients?

It's not surprising that 1/4 of Americans have inherited this "faulty gene". After all, American immigrants were frequently the poorest and downtrodden of other countries. People who were used to surviving -- strong people, hardy people. People who have known suffering and at times -- starvation. The weaker ones died off from hunger and sickness the strongest of the strong survived along with the just plain lucky. It's no great wonder that America is the fattest nation in the world now. We should be thankful to our ancestors for their strength. At least I know that if there was a famine in my lifetime -- I would surely survive -- and in that I am lucky.

1 comment:

Muse said...

The apparent contradiction between these two studies puzzled me, one seems to imply that fasting decreases BDNF and the other (and numerous others for that matter) states that BDNF is increased while fasting.

Then it occurred to me that the study that claimed BDNF levels decreased wasn't actually measuring BDNF but rather its precursor. The obvious conclusion is that the precursor is lowered while fasting because it was converted into BDNF.