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Intermittent Fasting for Anxiety Relief

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Intermittent Fasting for Anxiety Relief – Thomas DeLauer

Anxiety & Inflammation

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses suffered by the general population

Study – Metabolism

Inflammation within the central nervous system (CNS) is frequently comorbid with anxiety – the pro-inflammatory cytokine most commonly associated with anxiety is IL-1β

The bioavailability and activity of IL-1β is regulated by caspase-1-dependent proteolysis vis-a-vis the inflammasome

Thus, interventions regulating the activation or activity of caspase-1 should reduce anxiety especially in states that foster IL-1β maturation


Mouse anxiety-like behavior and cognition were tested using the elevated zero maze and novel object/object location tasks, respectively

A 24 h fast in mice reduced the activity of caspase-1 in whole brain and in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus by 35%, 25%, 40%, 40%, and 40% respectively

Why This Occurred

Suppression of caspase-1 activity may be due to factors affecting the assembly of the inflammasome complex, such as the effects of fasting on oxidative state

Likewise, autophagy directly targets the inflammasome for destruction and 24 hours of fasting can trigger autophagy in mouse

Similar to glyburide, the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate inhibits the inflammasome by preventing potassium efflux and ketone bodies are elevated by fasting in mice

Thus, the ability of fasting to both reduce IL-1β gene expression and caspase-1 activity, while having no effect on IL-1β protein, could be a sign of both short, and long-term inhibition of IL-1 signaling in the brain.



BDNF & Mood

Mood problems have been linked to issues with neuronal plasticity and low BDNF – BDNF activity occurs in the brain of patients with major depression disorder (MDD)

BDNF Findings

The BDNF levels in the second group were increased significantly by 25% compared to the control group

In addition, the levels of BDNF in the third group were significantly increased compared to second group by 29% and control group by 47%
(Second group = 14th day; third group = 29th day; control group = 2 days before fasting month)

So by the 29th day there was a 47% increase in BDNF compared to 2 days before the fasting month

Serotonin Findings

Plasma serotonin levels in the second group significantly increased by 33.4% when compared to the control group

In addition, the levels of serotonin in the third group were significantly increased compared to the second group by 14.7% and control group by 43.1%


1) Neuroplasticity in mood disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181795/
2) Neuroplasticity Studies Give Hope for Treatment Advances | Psychiatric News. (2008, January 18). Retrieved from https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/pn.43.2.0028
3) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor ( BDNF ) gene: no major impact on antidepressant treatment response | International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology | Oxford Academic. (2010, February 1). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/13/1/93/647804
4) Fasting and Exercise Increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – Rogue Health and Fitness. (2017, September 5). Retrieved from http://roguehealthandfitness.com/fasting-exercise-increase-brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor/
5) Dr Brady Salcido. (2017, November 11). 6 Surprising Brain Power Benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@drbradysalcido/6-surprising-brain-power-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting-49ad1bc39e04
6) Mattson MP , et al. (n.d.). Meal size and frequency affect neuronal plasticity and vulnerability to disease: cellular and molecular mechanisms. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12558961
7) All You Need to Know About BDNF + Natural Ways to Increase It – Selfhacked. (2018, June 11). Retrieved from https://www.selfhacked.com/blog/a-comprehensive-list-of-natural-ways-to-increase-bdnf/#BDNF_and_Wellness
8) BDNF signaling: Harnessing stress to battle mood disorder. (2018, April 10). Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/115/15/3742.short
9) Critical role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in mood disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165017304000189
10) The Effects of Fasting During Ramadan on the Concentration of Serotonin, Dopamine, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Nerve Growth Factor. (23). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5505095/

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