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Four ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

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There are four things you can do right now to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as you get older.

All four trigger the release of a special protein—BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor—that keeps the brain ‘plastic’ and helps it create new connections and pathways.

The most effective strategy is regular bursts of high-intensity exercise for six minutes, say researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand—but mini 20-hour fasts, 90 minutes of light exercise and a combination of exercise and fasting all help release BDNFs.

Short bursts of intense exercise increases levels of BDNF up to five times greater than fasting or light exercise on their own, the researchers say, although longer periods of fasting—up to three days, perhaps—or starting the fast with exercise could also stimulate more BDNFs.

The researchers tested the different approaches on 12 participants, aged between 18 and 56, who were already physically active.  They aren’t sure why intense exercise is the most effective but think it may have to do with the sudden release of platelets, the body’s smallest blood cells, that store large amounts of BDNF.

They are doing more research into strategies that release BDNFs, but they already think that combining fasting and exercise could be just as effective as short bursts of intensive exercise.


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Journal of Physiology, 2023; doi: 10.1113/JP283582
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