Past research has shown that calorie-restricted diets are associated with increased neuroprotection and improved recovery after a brain injury. However, it has not previously been understood exactly how calorie restriction improves outcome.
Brain injury is often thought of as a two-process injury. Immediate damage occurs from the primary injury, but there is also a secondary injury that results from an immune-like response to the primary injury. This is caused by an increase in toxic levels of chemicals in the brain and increased brain swelling. The secondary injury can last from hours to weeks after the initial injury.
A recent animal study showed that calorie restriction for three months prior to a brain injury suppressed the neurotoxicity and swelling associated with secondary brain injury. This was shown to be more beneficial if practiced before an injury rather than after. Calorie restriction has not only been associated with improved outcome after brain injury, but also with a decreased risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease, as well as a slower aging process.
Loncarevic-Vasiljkovic N, Pesic V, Todorivic S, et al. Caloric restriction suppresses microglia activation and prevents neuroapoptosis following cortical injury in rats. PLOS One. (June 2012).