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expert reaction to study on high-intensity exercise and onset of Alzheimer’s disease

A study published in The Journal of Physiology looks at the effect of fasting on exercise-induced increases in circulating BDNF in humans.


Dr Amanda Heslegrave, Senior Research Fellow, UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL, Fluid Biomarker Laboratory, UCL, said:

“The press release suggests that 6 minutes of high intensity exercise could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease but the study really is looking at the physiology of BDNF and what conditions effect the biggest increases either fasting with or without exercise. They haven’t in this particular project looked at AD – so really it should say – could promote healthy brain aging.

“The study is small but appears well put together and the conclusions about serum and plasma BDNF seem solid, the distinction between the two being pointed out makes this study interesting as it is so important to know what we are measuring.

“Existing evidence has suggested HIIT and restricted carbohydrate diet as a way to increase serum BDNF and improve metabolic and cognitive parameters in people with metabolic syndrome, this study suggests that exercise alone could possibly do this although it doesn’t measure any cognition markers.

“All the subjects in this study were fit and healthy with an apparent history of exercising regularly so extrapolating to the general population is difficult also the small sample makes it very difficult to generalise – and will not account for different ethnicities which may be important.

“Real world implications are highlighting how important metabolic health is, and further research in this area – and linking it to brain health would be an important step forward to enabling non pharmaceutical interventions to be included in health programmes.”



Fasting for 20 hours does not affect exercise-induced increases in circulating BDNF in humans.’ by Travis Gibbons et al. was published in The Journal of Physiology at 01.00 UK Time Thursday 12 January 2023.

DOI: 10.1113/JP283582



Declared interests

Dr Amanda Heslegrave: “I have no disclosures.”


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