A recent study published in the Journal of Physiology has suggested that brief, high-intensity exercise may be beneficial to the human brain, potentially extending lifespan and delaying the onset of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The research, conducted by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, investigated the influence of fasting and exercise on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) production in twelve men and women.
The researchers compared the effects of fasting, low-intensity cycling for 90 minutes, six-minute high-intensity cycling, and a combination of fasting and exercise. The results indicated that brief but vigorous exercise was the most efficient way to increase BDNF compared to one day of fasting with or without lengthy, low-intensity exercise.
The study's lead author, Travis Gibbons, stated that the brain may switch its favored fuel source, metabolizing lactate instead of glucose during exercise, which could potentially initiate pathways that lead to more BDNF in the blood. Additionally, an increased number of blood platelets, which store large amounts of BDNF and are more heavily influenced by exercise than fasting, may contribute to the BDNF boost.
The findings of this study are noteworthy, as BDNF is essential for brain formation, learning, and memory, and is thought to offer protection from age-related mental decline. However, further research is needed to understand the results of this study. The researchers are currently investigating how fasting for longer durations and exercising hard at the start of a fast may influence BDNF production in the human brain.