Feed Your Brain!

The brain is the most important organ in our body.  Without it we can not survive.  Most people are aware of this.  However, we also know that altered states of brain function are connected with disability and death.  Alzheimer’s Disease is a perfect example of this.  Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder named for German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first described it in 1906.  Is a progressive and fatal brain disease. As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

Because Alzheimer’s is considered progressive, the best treatment is to avoid getting it altogether.  There are several things you can do to protect yourself and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The best start is to eat well.  Eating a healthy diet is associated with lower rates of dementia and there are several foods that you should focus on.  Below is a great list that I found on the AARP website.  Enjoy!

1) Vegetables

The latest news from neuroscience confirms what Mom always said: Eat your vegetables! For all the interest in individual vitamins and supplement formulas, the best advice is to eat a variety of colorful, cruciferous, and leafy green vegetables.

A recent federally funded study of 13,388 nurses that has tracked their eating patterns for 10 years found that women who ate more cruciferous and leafy vegetables in their 60’s including broccoli, cauliflower, green lettuces and spinach, had a lower rate of decline on a battery of learning and memory tests. The more of these vegetables they ate, the better they performed.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has long been promoted for its heart-healthy and cancer-fighting potential, so it’s not surprising that such a diet is also good for your brain. Vegetables and fruits are packed with antioxidants and other essential vitamins and minerals, are low in fat, and are generally low in calories.

2) Antioxidants

Of all the dietary factors that are being investigated for possible roles in staving off mental decline with aging, antioxidants have received the most attention. Antioxidants, which include vitamins C, E, and beta carotene (a form of vitamin A), reduce oxidative damage to cells.

Oxidation, which can be thought of as the biological equivalent of rusting, seems to contribute to aging and cognitive decline.

Human studies of antioxidant use have yielded mixed results. This is partly because our diets are generally quite varied, and it’s very difficult to prove that health benefits are the result of any one dietary factor. Animal studies, on the other hand, have shown consistent benefits for diets rich in antioxidants.

For example, a series of studies in beagles found that an antioxidant-rich diet prevented or slowed age-related declines in various learning tasks. The animals that were fed the special diet had improved performance on both simple and complex cognitive tests.

In fact, aged dogs that could not perform one of the more difficult tests at all in the beginning of the study could do so after three years on the diet. “We actually resurrected function out of the aging brain,” says Carl Cotman, a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives who led the study. “That just blew us away.”

A series of studies out of Tufts University has shown that animals fed diets high in blueberries had improved short-term memory and balance. The ingredient that gives blueberries their color appears to endow them with potent antioxidant properties.

Fruits High In Antioxidants
Berries (Cherry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, crowberry, blueberry, bilberry/wild blueberry, black currant), pomegranate, grape, orange, plum, pineapple, kiwi fruit, grapefruit.

Vegetables High In Antioxidants
Kale, chili pepper, red cabbage, peppers, parsley, artichoke, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lemon, ginger, red beets.

3) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are a particular type of polyunsaturated fats that are found in fatty fish. Scientific literature indicates that omega-3s are important to maintaining brain function in early development and throughout life, and may help protect the brain from aging.

Fatty acids seem to work in part by counteracting free radicals that cause oxidative damage to brain cells, and some research suggests they may help improve the efficiency of nerve signal transmission at synapses.

The best sources of omega-3s are mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, anchovies, whitefish, and sablefish.

4) B Vitamins

B vitamins are of interest because of their effectiveness in lowering levels of homocysteine, a blood protein that is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease as well as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

In particular, scientists are investigating whether folate, or folic acid, may have a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Folate and other B vitamins are currently being evaluated in a clinical trial for people with Alzheimer’s.

5) Multivitamin Supplements

Most experts are comfortable recommending that older adults take a daily multivitamin as a supplement to a healthy diet. Claudia H. Kawas, M.D., neurologist and expert in aging from University of California, Irvine, and also a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, says she is not at all opposed to multivitamins.

“I don’t think any of our diets are that good, and as people get older and are eating less, they may have diets that are lower in various nutrients,” Kawas explains. Still, the best advice, she says, “is to do what your mother told you to do: Eat all those healthy fruits and vegetables.”

These are simple ways to maintain and improve your brain health.  They will also reduce your risk of developing dementia.  Keep them in mind and you’ll be sharp as a tack well into old age!

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One response to “Feed Your Brain!

  1. Pingback: Colorful Foods, Potent Antioxidants | Weight Issues

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