Summary – exercise and fasting linked to brain health

New research paves the way for possible prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Brain health suffers when toxic proteins build up. These toxic proteins in the brain can lead to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and other devastating neurodegenerative disorders. 

In the past we did not know how to stop the build-up or clear the toxins out of the brain.c

A study by researchers at Harvard (1) helps explain why exercise and fasting may help rid the toxins from the brain.

Neurodegenerative diseases are linked to accumulation of misfolded (toxic) proteins. 

The Harvard study shows that vigorous exercise or 12 hour fasting increases the levels of cAMP which is chemical trigger that results in the elimination of waste proteins from the brain. 

Implications for brain health

  • This study demonstrates that fasting and vigorous exercise are linked to the cellular clean-up process. This might explain why metabolic disorders are a significant risk factor for developing neurodegenerative disorders.
  • These findings also raise the question: Could the ketogenic diet, which mimics fasting, be a useful tool in the brain’s cellular clean up process. 
  • Further research could also be on the details of exercise as a brain clean-up tool. 
  • We hope that more research can investigate how we can use metabolic therapies to prevent or treat brain diseases.

Here’s  Dr. Palmer’s Advancing Psychiatry column in Psychology Today, including the original article entitled, Exercise and Fasting Linked to Brain Detox:

New research paves the way for possible prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.


  1. VerPlank, J. J. S., Lokireddy, S., Zhao, J., & Goldberg, A. L. (2019). 26S Proteasomes are rapidly activated by diverse hormones and physiological states that raise cAMP and cause Rpn6 phosphorylation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(10), 4228.

Christie Barnett, APN

Christie is an Advanced Practice Nurse with over 35 years experience working with people in mental health care. She currently has a private, outpatient psychotherapy practice in Millburn, NJ. You can follow her on Instagram at keto.nj

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