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Does Fasting Make you Smarter – Podcast #37

In the EvolutionMedicine Podcast #37, Coffee Brown and I discuss whether intermittent fasting improves cognitive capacity. We talk about the recent paper by Mark P. Mattson, “An Evolutionary Perspective on Why Food Overconsumption Impairs Cognition” published in the journal Cell. Does overeating make us dumb as a culture? Can fasting make us smarter? We lay out the evidence and add our own thoughts. Plus Coffee talks about his new venture “Interesting Conversations”. Go to for more information.

One important aside to note here. In making this podcast, we make mention of IQ and eating habits and obesity, and discuss them in the context of the references included in the Mattson paper. Both of us present provocative ideas that we don’t necessarily agree with, often taking the Devil’s advocate position as a way of introducing ideas for debate. The Mattson paper does propose that obesity is linked with lower IQ. Mattson also cites work linking a history of maternal obesity, and lack of physical activity with low IQ. We paraphrased this argument, so that listeners might understand Mattson’s hypothesis. Both of us challenge the assertion in the paper that obesity has a causal association with low IQ. This is a controversial idea, as I pointed out in the podcast. Read this for more. As we discuss, Mattson’s hypothesis can be fairly criticized in other ways as well. I hope the complexity of this comes through in our discussion. Enjoy.


Mattson 2019 An Evolutionary Perspective on Why Food Overconsumption Impairs Cognition

Li et al 2017. Intermittent Fasting Promotes White Adipose Browning and Decreases Obesity by Shaping the Gut Microbiota

Does Thinking Really Hard Really Burn More Calories? Scientific American 

Pontzer Hunter-gatherer Energy Expenditure

Nutrient Signaling Hypothesis

Categories: Uncategorized

Joe Alcock

Emergency Physician, Educator, Researcher, interested in the microbiome, evolution, and medicine

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