Exercise, Fasting, and Brain Health

Todd Lloyd
August 12, 2022

Inactivity and Disease

Research has demonstrated that inactivity is an independent causes of abdominal adiposity, and a contributing factor to cognitive decline. If you are a couch potato, you turn into a potato. Or some other kind of vegetable. Physical inactivity may lead to the accumulation of visceral fat and the activation of a network of inflammatory pathways. This not only promote insulin resistance and atherosclerosis, but also leads to neurodegeneration and the development of cognitive impairment.

Physical inactivity increases the risk of type two diabetes. It also leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, dementia, depression, and an increased risk of premature morbidity. Don't be a couch potato.

All of the diseases of physical inactivity presents with highly different presentations, but share important pathogenetic mechanisms. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for all cause mortality. There was once a study done on healthy men where they actually decreased the number of daily steps they took for two weeks. In the study they went from about 10,000 steps per day to 1500 steps per day. During this time frame, there was a 7% decline in VO2max, and a markedly impaired glucose tolerance. They also developed an attenuation of postprandial lipid metabolism. They saw in 7% increase in intra-abdominal fat mass without a change in total fat mass.

Muscles and their Myokines

Skeletal muscle is a secretory organ. Cytokines are chemicals that are secreted by cells in your body. In muscles, the cytokines are called myokines. These cytokines are produced and released by muscle fibers, and they act as endocrine hormones. Muscle secrete several hundred peptides which influence metabolism and function in other organs. They are not mediated by the nervous system.

The more we learn about myokines, the more we learn about how your muscles communicate with other organs in your body such as adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, your bones, and your cardiovascular system. Most importantly, they communicate with your brain. Several myokines even communicate with the muscles themselves. Myokines produced by skeletal muscle are dependent upon muscle contraction. It is likely that they contribute to the health effects of exercise. With obesity, adipose tissue secretes adipokines that contribute to a chronic inflammatory environment, promoting pathological processes such as obesity. Adiopokines secreted by fat cells also can lead to cardiovascular diseases.

Myokines will counteract against the effects of the pro inflammatory states of obesity. Myokines will secrete IL-6 into your blood stream, and this is increased with exercise. IL-6 has an effect on your liver and fat tissue, increasing the amount of fat that is burned, so you can exercise more.

Myokines play a role in producing growth hormones that will in turn build more muscle. It increases peripheral metabolism, and it will increase muscle repair. Myostatin is a hormone that reduces muscle growth, but follistatin is a hormone that inhibits myostatin. And follistatin is increased with exercise.

The side effect of exercise is muscle growth.

Increased secretion and expression of myostatin in skeletal muscle from extremely obese women

A study done in 2009 in the journal obesity looked at the amino acids of obese women to identify what is being secreted through their bodies compared to healthy non-obese women. They found that obese women with a BMI more than 48 have a 2.9 fold increase in the secretion of myostatin. This contributes to systemic metabolic deterioration of skeletal muscle with the progression of insulin resistance to type two diabetes.

Another study shows us that the average obese woman gets one hour of exercise per year. Obese men only exercise 3.6 hours per year. These are people who are living their lives one chair to the next chair. There are many people who are vigorously active, and engage in sports every day. However there is also a large population of people who do not know just how inactive they are. The average American adults it's 13 hours per day. 18 studies in the last 16 years conclude the excess sitting is dangerous and can be lethal.

Energy intake and exercise are important for brain health

Brain performance is at a peak level under conditions of intermittent fasting, and periodic vigorous exercise. Fasting and exercise enhance the functional capabilities of the brain reactions on synapses and neural stem cells. This results in adaptive synaptic plasticity. This is also called activity dependent neuroplasticity.

Activity dependent neuroplasticity causes a change in the number, structure, and functional status of synapses as a result of adaptive responses to environmental challenges. Many studies demonstrate a wide range of health benefits of exercise and fasting and overweight subjects. Daily caloric restriction and alternate daily caloric restriction result in reduced abdominal fat mass, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced amounts of oxidative damaged molecules.

In their natural environment, mammals typically maintain a neutral energy balance throughout their life. Our ancestors encountered many hazards from weather, predators, physical injuries, and infections. We competed for a limited food supply. Energy intake was relatively low and intermittent, and energy expenditure remains high. Within the last 100 years, there have been dramatic changes of increase energy intake and reduced energy expenditure of most humans in modern societies.

Humans in modern societies are unnaturally overfed, Centerra, and in a state of chronic positive energy balance. This results in sub optimal health.

Both exercise and caloric restricting diets increase brain derived neurotrophic factor, which increases the connections from one cell to the next in your brain. These two activities make you smarter, and will whip you back into shape.

Todd Lloyd
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