This is what this new study published in Nature Neuroscience seems to suggest (link to study below).
We’ve known for decades that Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are irreversible diseases.
The development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (as well as many other neurodegenerative diseases) has strong ties to the accumulation of “damaged mitochondria” in the cells of the relevant nervous system.
Mitochondria are the “power plants” of your cells. They are responsible for converting food and oxygen into energy in each cell. Without mitochondria, life would not exist.
However, damaged mitochondria have a very negative effect on “life”. In fact, studies have shown that damaged mitochondria are linked to a wide range of diseases, from cancer to diseases linked to ageing, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Dementia and others.
Based on all the science from the past few decades, we are starting to form strong theories on what can cause damage to mitochondria: certain toxic foods (such as vegetable oils), excess sugar, environmental pollutants, lack of sleep, etc.
However, the human body is very resilient: the body is able to “deal” with damaged mitochondria by “destroying” them through a process called mitophagy (one of the steps of autophagy).
Autophagy (something I’ve talked about extensively in past articles and video) comes from the Greek: “auto” (self), “phagy” (eat), so loosely translated, it means “self-eating”. Autophagy is self-eating at the cellular level, and mitophagy is self-eating of the damaged mitochondria inside the cell.
This is the most basic “repair” process of the body: when it detects that a cell has been damaged, or that organelles (such as mitochondria) inside the cell have been damaged, it initiates autophagy for the cell to “clean up the house by destroying and replacing damaged parts”, and sometimes kill the cell itself.
Back to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's: what this new study shows is that the progression of the disease is linked to the accumulation of damaged mitochondria.
The study also showed that inducing mitophagy (destruction of damaged mitochondria) may reverse the progress of the disease, including the reversal of cognitive (mental) deterioration.
In terms of treatment, scientists are working on developing viruses which can infiltrate cells and trigger mitophagy.
However, we can already do certain things that “encourage” the body’s natural repair processes to trigger autophagy and mitophagy on its own.
One of the most documented ways to do that is “calorie restriction”, otherwise known as fasting.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that when the body is not “busy” digestive calories, it activates pathways that check for damaged cells and trigger autophagy within those cells.
I personally fast for 24 hours once a week, 3 days once a month, and 5 days once every few months.
During my “non fasting” days, I usually eat within an 8 hour window (between 12 and 8pm), which leaves my body “fasted” for 16 hours every day.
Based on all the studies I’ve read over the years, this practice is more than sufficient to trigger autophagy on a regular basis.