Undesirable and desirable effects of stressors on the body are assigned to distress and eustress, respectively. Immune system and brain are the most susceptible parts to stressful conditions, whereas long-lasting alterations in putative immune proteins involved in tension such as corticosterone (CORT), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) can impact learning and memory. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a repeated regular cycle of dietary restriction with well-known beneficial properties on the body. The aim of this study was to identify the eustress effects of IF on cognitive function by assessing the critical inflammatory factors in chronic distress. Forty male mice were divided into four groups (n = 10/group). Distress and control normally received food and water, whereas IF and IF with distress groups were daily deprived of food and water for two hours. In the second week, the electrical foot shock was induced to distress and IF with distress groups. Finally, the cognitive functions of all mice were evaluated by Barnes maze, their blood samples were taken to determine the plasma level of CORT, IL-6 and TNF-α, and the removed brain and adrenal glands were weighed in the third week. A significant gain in plasma level of CORT, IL-6 and TNF-α with a considerable brain hypotrophy and adrenal hypertrophy was found in distress group, whereas IF caused a remarkable reduction of the plasma inflammatory factors, especially in IF with distress mice (P ≤ 0.05). In conclusion, IF could improve cognitive function and preserve the brain against distress by regulation of inflammatory response pathway.
Keywords: CORT; Distress hormone; Fasting; IL-6; Learning and memory; TNF-α.