Evolution favored individuals with superior cognitive and physical abilities under conditions of limited food sources, and brain function can therefore be optimized by intermittent dietary energy restriction (ER) and exercise. Such energetic challenges engage adaptive cellular stress-response signaling pathways in neurons involving neurotrophic factors, protein chaperones, DNA-repair proteins, autophagy, and mitochondrial biogenesis. By suppressing adaptive cellular stress responses, overeating and a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, stroke, and depression. Intense concerted efforts of governments, families, schools, and physicians will be required to successfully implement brain-healthy lifestyles that incorporate ER and exercise.
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