Sleep disturbances and cognitive problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease can be corrected through time-restricted feeding, a form of intermittent fasting that focuses on limiting the daily eating window without reducing overall food intake, a new study has found.
The research shows that mice subjected to a time-restricted feeding schedule exhibited improved memory and reduced accumulation of amyloid proteins in the brain—key markers of Alzheimer’s pathology.
The findings s pave the way for potential human clinical trials.
Senior study author, Paula Desplats, PhD, and professor in the Department of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said: “For many years, we assumed that the circadian disruptions seen in people with Alzheimer’s are a result of neurodegeneration, but we’re now learning it may be the other way around — circadian disruption may be one of the main drivers of Alzheimer’s pathology.
“This makes circadian disruptions a promising target for new Alzheimer’s treatments, and our findings provide the proof-of-concept for an easy and accessible way to correct these disruptions.”
Nearly 80 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s experience these issues, including difficulty sleeping and worsening cognitive function at night.
However, there are currently no existing treatments for Alzheimer’s that target this aspect of the disease.
Unlike traditional drug-based treatments, the new approach relies on a lifestyle change.
In the mouse model, the feeding window was limited to six hours a day, akin to about 14 hours of fasting for humans.
Compared to control mice with unrestricted access to food, those on the time-restricted schedule exhibited improved memory, more regular sleep patterns, and fewer nighttime disruptions.
Moreover, the mice showed altered expression of genes linked to Alzheimer’s and neuroinflammation, as well as reduced accumulation of amyloid proteins in the brain.
Desplats envisions the approach being readily integrated into people’s lives.
The researcher said: “Time-restricted feeding is a strategy that people can easily and immediately integrate into their lives.
“If we can reproduce our results in humans, this approach could be a simple way to dramatically improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them.”