By Dr. George Springer
Q: Which part of the human body requires a massive 40% of the nutrients you take in, to function properly?
A: The brain!
Today’s health-conscious consumers are very aware of the important role the right nutrition plays in maintaining a healthy body, but less known is the important role that good nutrition plays in mental, as well as, physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your heart, lungs or muscles.
There’s a proven link between diet, heart disease, stroke and cognitive decline. The vascular system is like a tree, there is one main network with different branches. If you clog your arteries you are at risk of vascular dementia.
Results of a recent large study of people living in the Stroke Belt (a region in Southeastern U.S. where health officials have found a higher incidence of strokes) shows that those who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop a decline in their thinking and memory skills.
The Mediterranean diet is high in antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids like omega-3, which may have a positive effect on the heart and the brain. Healthy individuals who follow the diet have a 19 percent reduced risk of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Eating To Forget
If you read the ingredients on any packet of food and you can’t pronounce some of them, the chances are the food is bad for your brain – and the rest of your body. Poor food choices mean poor cognitive functioning. Eating high amounts of saturated fat can raise the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood, which can then stick to your arteries and turn on inflammatory genes which are a major cause of vascular dementia. Brain neurons become inflammed, and like an unattended fire, the inflammation can slowly spread and lead to serious metabolic breakdown, with vast implications for long-term brain health.
Some key foods to avoid include:
Fast Food – Fatty foods which contain a lot of trans fats, can damage the hypothalamus region of the brain and leave it inflamed, which in turn can lead to brain shrinkage.
Salty Food – are hard on the brain. People with a high daily sodium intake and low exercise perform poorer on cognitive tests than those with low sodium intake and active lifestyle.
Processed Foods – Artificial food additives, like preservatives and food dyes, have been shown in studies to affect cognitive function. MSG, for example, used to flavor foods, was found in studies to destroy nerve cells in the brain.
Fried Foods – Researchers from Spain found that compounds released from common cooking oils raised the risk of neurologic degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Foods with Pesticide Residue – Prolonged pesticide exposure has been found to lead to a loss of neurons which in turn allows neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s to develop.
The Mediterranean diet mentioned above is rich in olive oil, fruits and vegetable, beans, nuts, and fish, while it’s low in foods containing saturated fats, like meat and dairy foods. Some of the key food choices for maintaining a healthy brain are:
Fish like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy mind. One of the main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil is DHA, which makes up about 40% of brain cell membranes. In a 2006 study, researchers at Tufts University found that people who ate fish 3 times a week had the highest level of DHA in their blood, reducing their risk of Alzheimer’s by 39%.
Berries and Currants
Evidence accumulated at Tufts University suggests that the consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility. and one of the best sources of this vital vitamin are blackcurrants.
There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.
Certain B vitamins – B6, B12 and folic acid – are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
A great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.
Vitamin E is believed to improve cognitive function and nuts are a great source along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and whole grains.
If your diet is unbalanced for whatever reason, you may want to consider a multivitamin and mineral complex and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help make up a few of the essentials. If you are considering taking a supplement it is best to discuss this with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional.
Most people are aware that the cells in the body need regular hydration and the brain is no exception. Three-quarters of the brain is water, and its cells need it to thrive. Boost your brain power by drinking 6-8 glasses of good quality water per day.
It is important to assist the body in defending itself against cognitive disease through nutritional support. An in-depth evaluation and specific lab tests can highlight potential deficiencies, which may be corrected with the right herbs, vitamins, and other supplements.
Dr. George Springer has practiced alternative medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation for over years. He treats all forms of chronic disease, provides functional laboratory evaluation for patients with specific individual nutrition recommendations, treats patients with chronic pain, chronic fatigue and neuro-musculoskeletal problems.