Intermittent fasting (IF) refers to various diets that cycle through defined periods of fasting and non-fasting. Generally, the periods of fasting are 24 hours or less. People usually refer to fasting longer than 24 hours as prolonged fasting.
Examples of Intermittent Fasting
- Time-restricted Feeding (TRF)
- 16/8 – Fast for 16 hours and eat in an 8 hour window each day.
- 12/12 – Fast for 12 hours and eat in a 12 hour window each day.
- Whole-day Fasting (WDF)
- WDF – Fasting that involves regular periods of 24 hour fasts. Example: Fast for 24 hours once or twice a week.
- Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) – Fasting for 24 hours every other day.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There has been plenty of research in the last two decades about the benefits of intermittent fasting. In fact, Healthline has an article that lists evidence based benefits of IF with plenty of resources. Moreover, could IF have specific benefits for Charcot Marie Tooth? Researchers in Florida published a study in 2010 that explored the benefits of intermittent fasting in mice with Charcot Marie Tooth type 1A.
The study, “Intermittent fasting alleviates the neuropathic phenotype in a mouse model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease,” kept mice with CMT1A on a five month long IF regimen while monitoring their locomotor performance. The results of the study “indicate that dietary restriction is benificial for peripheral nerve function [..], as it promotes the maintenance of locomotor performance,” researchers concluded in the article. Before we can go into detail about the study, it’s best to understand the Schwann Cell and how it plays a role in CMT.
CMT and the Schwann Cell
The term Schwann cell refers to any of the cells in the peripheral nervous system that produce the myelin sheath around neuronal axons. Consequently, researchers believe the Schwann cell is thought to play a big role in the abnormal expression of the gene PMP22, the cause of CMT1A. Specifically, the altered processing and turnover rate of a mutated protein within Schwann cells. In simple terms, unhealthy Schwann cells produce unhealthy myelin sheaths. With this in mind, the study set out to discover if the biology of Schwann cells in mice with CMT1A could be improved somehow. Could Intermittent Fasting do the trick?
Intermittent Fasting for Healing
The study references a few articles that show how IF can help with neurodegenerative disease and protein degradation. One of the many benefits of IF is that it puts the body into survival mode, making it repair itself and normalize bodily functions. Therefore it makes sense that IF could potentially help normalize the biology of Schwann cells in patients with CMT. The researchers put that exact hypothesis to the test in this study.
The researchers put mice on a five month long IF regimen. There were four test groups: healthy mice fed normally, healthy mice on an IF regimen, CMT1A mice fed normally, and CMT1A mice on an IF regimen. The mice on an IF regimen were fed every other day, basically the Alternate-day Fasting technique. Over a two year period, the researchers performed this same experimental design three independent times with four to ten age-matched mice in each group. At the end of each trial, they collected the sciatic nerves from each mouse for biochemical and morphological studies. Here is a list of the tests performed:
- Rotarod test
- Grip strength test
- Morphological studies
- Primary antibodies
- Biochemical analyses
- Immunolabeling of nerve sections
- Statistical analysis
The article itself goes into great detail about all these tests and the results. For the sake of readability, I will be omitting the description of these tests. Please refer to the materials and methods section of the article for more detail.
The results were promising. They showed that IF improves locomotor performance. Intermittent fasting enhanced myelin protein expression, meaning healthier, thicker myelin sheaths. The researchers also discovered that IF reduced the inflammatory aspects of neuropathy.
These results were clear. Intermittent fasting could benefit patients with Charcot Marie Tooth by improving the biology of Schwann cells, producing healthier myelin sheaths and reducing inflammatory aspects of neuropathy.
The benefits of Intermittent Fasting have been studied for decades, centuries even. Additionally, there is now research that shows specific benefits for Charcot Marie Tooth disease.
I have been practicing IF for several months now. I started even before reading this article. Intermittent Fasting seemed like it would inadvertently help with CMT symptoms, but I hadn’t thought that IF might have a direct impact on my disease. I have felt the benefits of IF ever since starting, and now I have solid research that explains why.
It is always a recommended to consult your doctor before altering your diet or exercise routine in any way, especially with a disease like CMT. Please do so before trying IF. That being said, I recommend patients with CMT look into this way of dieting.