Food for the brain reduces the risk of Alzheimer's-disease and other dementias.
Few things terrorise us more than the sneaking suspicion that we are losing it. You can no longer remember people's names and then you find that, unable to locate the sugar, you had put the bowl in the fridge or microwave ; instead instead of its usual spot on the shelf.
In my own particular case it is the inability to recognise some common item that I am hunting for, only to find it right under my nose. Yesterday it was the butter on the dining room table; with the lid on, I missed it at first-glance.
A few months ago I went soaring for the first time at an unfamiliar airfield. I got in a panic when I could not locate the landing-strip that was right off the left wing. Sadly, it was time to quit before a horrible accident.
You will have your own little-scares. Is this the normal part of aging, or is it the first sign of dementia? I decided to do some homework to find out what the literature has to say about food for the brain.
Here is the checklist that I drew up.
There are now known to be at least 40 different compounds that we absolutely must get from our food. It's impossible to track whether you have had sufficient apigenin or vitamin-E today, for example; you would go crazy.
Instead follow the two golden-rules.
Food found in
Greens like lettuce
Seafood and sunshine
Citrus, peppers and berries
Fatty-fish and flaxseed
Purple-berries, grapes and tomatoes
Berries and grapes
Orange and red foods like carrots and tomatoes
A critic could readily shoot holes in this little-list; there are many gaps, in particular minerals that are essential in the chemical processes that use this food for the brain. And where are the legumes, nuts and seeds?
We just need to eat from a very broad-spectrum of foods to get the nutrients our bodies and brains desperately need.
Homocysteine is a highly toxic breakdown product of protein-metabolism that is strongly associated with damaging effects on the brain and heart cells.
The body normally breaks it down immediately but many of the above desirable food substances are required for the process.
Hypertension is strongly associated with dementia, probably due to the reduced blood flow to the brain. Foods such as beets that are rich in minerals boost nitric-oxide levels that relax the arterioles that supply the nerve cells.
Whilst not food for the brain, exercise contributes by keeping our blood-sugar down and helping make sure that these desirable substances actually reach that nerve tissues where they are so vitally needed.
Food for the brain helps make sure we do not lose our marbles by preventing the build up of toxic compounds like homocysteine and damaging free-radicals.
A serious psychological-disease lurks if you become obsessed with trying to get all these foods for your brain.
Notice a few simple-rules.
Try to follow those simple rules and you can relax and avoid food nut neurosis.
It is no coincidence but these are the very foods that minimise the risk of hypertension, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity that are so strongly associated with dementia.
Much of it has to do with the well-being of our blood vessels; those lifestyle factors that damage our arteries are little different to those that cause havoc with our brains.
At the heart of it are the chronically raised blood-glucose of obesity and the inflammation of capillaries caused by smoking; the very devils that destroy our marbles.
Inflammation of the tissues of the body, including the brain, have at their heart what is known as oxidative-stress.
Compounds like homocysteine are not disposed of as fast as they should be and there is a build up of free-radicals which damage both our genes and organs.
These free-radicals that cause inflammation are neutralised by the antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins in our diet.
If we are not consuming them on a daily basis, especially as we get older when everything starts to happen more slowly, then gradually there is neuronal-damage and the consequent dementia is inevitable.
The colon is being called the second-brain because of the host of
neurotransmitters that are produced in and by the gut. Astonishingly
there are 2kg of friendly bacteria, viruses and yeasts in the happy
colon; worms too.
Probiotics like kefir help restore these bugs. Wherever possible, let your food be your medicine; you never get the wide-diversity needed from a supplement.
But antibiotics and the soup of toxic-chemicals that we consume play havoc with this microbiome, as it is known.
Food for the brain is not only about what we consume, but also that which we should avoid.
Top of the list are the non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) that alter both the composition and function of the microbiome, and drive the development of glucose intolerance and raised blood sugar.
Sucralose which is sold under the brand name Splenda is coming in for a lot of stick; it is used as a sweetener in many baked goods, colas and frozen dairy desserts. It damages our DNA and wears down the lining of the intestine causing leaky gut syndrome. Symptoms include diarrhoea, indigestion and bloating.
They also make us more vulnerable to attack by antibiotic-resistant bugs.
The take-home from of all of this is that it is a complex subject to which researchers are adding daily to the literature.
The best we can do is to eat food for the brain as often as possible, especially many different coloured-fruits and vegetables, and avoid chemicals like saccharin and aspartane that are far more deleterious than the sugar we are avoiding.
Enjoying our food is important, but the tongue can be trained to tolerate and even enjoy
beets, kale and berries; lemons and herbs like parsley and basil too.
1. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota
2. Nonnutritive sweeteners can promote the dissemination of antibiotic resistance through conjugative gene transfer.
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