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BRAIN POWER

Brain Dietary Nourishment

 

Brain Food

Food is the brain's primary chemical link to its environment and to its evolution. Your diet affects the brain chemicals that influence your mood and behavior, the thought processes and emotional reactions.

The brain needs a daily dietary intake of quality food. Fat and nutrient differences account for mental performance differences. A diet with less fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and more carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins [ folate, vitamins C, E, and beta-carotenes], and minerals [ magnesium potassium, and zinc] not only improves general health but also improves cognitive function.

Age related illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases are largely impacted by those nutrients shown to prolong mental performance. The message is clear; improve your nutrition and reduce your chances of developing these debilitating diseases.

The food elements that have the most positive effect on the brain are:

B Vitamins

Most Americans are vitamin B deficient because we consume too much alcohol, coffee, sugar and cigarettes; all which deplete the body of vitamin B. Without enough vitamin B in our diets, we are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s, as well as other frightening diseases such as depression, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

B-vitamins play a critical role in brain function.

  • Vitamin B-12 [cobalamin] - deficiency has been implicated as a cause of vascular disease, which can impact the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the brain.Recent studies also find an important role for B-12 in cognition. Veterans with subnormal B-12 blood levels experienced deficits in cognitive performance. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a notable cause of numbness, tingling, incoordination, and impaired cognitive function.
  • Niacin - niacin deficiency presents as dementia, dermatitis, and diarrhea. Folic acid is a coenzyme that helps cells with the process of cell division and replication. Low blood levels of folate correlated to an increased likelihood of difficulties with short-term memory, stroke, dementia and depression.
  • Thiamine [Vitamin B-1] - a circulatory enhancer and for maintaining muscle tone of the heart, stomach and intestines. Recent studies implicate thiamine in cognitive dysfunction. Alzheimer patients, not deficient in B1, given oral supplementation of a thiamine derivative had a mild beneficial effect on emotional as well as intellectual functions. This is an important clue for researchers investigating the biological origins of Alzheimer's Disease. Thiamine deficiency causes cognitive dysfunction and is fully expressed in malnourished alcoholics as Wernicke's psychosis.
  • Inositol - a B vitamin necessary for fat and cholesterol metabolism and for fat mobilization from the liver, shows therapeutic benefit in Alzheimer's patients. Language and orientation skills were significantly improved with therapeutic doses of inositol in Alzheimer's Disease.

 

Amino Acids [Protein Blocks]

Amino acids are the 'building blocks of protein; integral in cellular functions. All cognitive processes rely on neurotransmission (the communication of electrical impulses through nerve cells), proper amino acid levels are critical to mental performance.

Insufficient essential amino acids in the diet foreces your body i to do without them. This may lead to the onset of illness, enhance metabolic errors necessary to reinforce cognitive health.

  • Taurine - A significantly reduction in the level of taurine in the part of the brain associated with spatial learning performance was correlated to reduced dopamine, implicated in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Diseases. Taurine-deficient diets were found to have depressed IGF-1 levels. Dietary supplementation was able to correct "advanced aging [that] results in a taurine-deficient state."
  • Tryptophan - through its metabolic conversion to melatonin, is an important brain amino acid. Stress or a dietary deficiency of tryptophan results in reduced availability of serotonin and melatonin. We produce less melatonin with age, leading to biorhythm irregularities associated with affective diseases, sleep disorders, Alzheimer's Disease, and other diseases of aging
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine - deficiency has also been linked to cognitive impairment. 3 month therapy trials found improvements in dementia and memory, as well as in attention and verbal skills. When given to Alzheimer's patients, acetyl-L-carnitine exerted a protective action, stabilizing test scores from mental assessments.

 

Fatty Acids

Most of your brain is made up of fats. The membranes of brain neurons are composed of a thin double-layer of fatty acid molecules. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat. One of the most common fatty acids in myelin is oleic acid. Oleic acid is abundant in human milk, olive oil and the oils from almonds, pecans, macadamias, peanuts, and avocados.

Your brain cells require very specialized fats. These are manufactured from two essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the diet:

  1. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) an "omega-3" fatty acids. Food sources of omega-3 ALA include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, sea vegetables, and green leafy vegetables.
  2. Linoleic acid (LA). LA an "omega-6" fatty acid. Food sources of omega-6 LA include expeller cold-pressed sunflower, safflower, corn, and sesame oils.

From ALA and LA, your brain manufactures DHA [docosahexaenoic acid] and AA [arachidonic acid]; the longer chained fatty acids that are incorporated in its cell membranes.

DHA declines with age, resulting in less protection against oxidative damage, resulting in cognitive impairment. Parkinson's and Alzheimer's both appear to be associated with membrane loss of fatty acids. Thus an optimal diet of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may help to delay their onset of these diseases.

It is important that these two fatty acids are in balance; a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Western diets, however, tend to have an unhealthy ratio of 20:1 This imbalance may be linked to hyperactivity, depression, brain allergies, and schizophrenia.

This imbalance can be corrected by completely avoiding trans fatty acids found in partially-hydrogenated oils, margarine, and shortening and eating less sugar. Only eat "cold-pressed" oils and fats or "extra virgin”; Olive oil, and boost consumption of omega-3-rich fish and flax seed oil. Trans fatty acids replace the natural DHA in the membrane, which affects the electrical activity of the neuron. This disrupts communication, triggering cellular degeneration and diminished mental performance.

Good dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are high-fat, cold water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout. That’s why fish are called brain food.
To boost your supply of Omega-6 fatty acids, look for foods and supplements that include evening primrose, borage, and black currant seed oils. Of course meat, eggs, and dairy are also good in moderation.

Healthy monounsaturated fats are found also in avocados, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, mackerel, and herrings, as well as in sesame, palm, corn, sunflower, and soybean oils.

As we age there is an increasing demand for unsaturated fatty acids.

 

Phospholipids

Phospholipids are a group of molecules found in abundance in the membranes of nerve cells, red blood cells, and cellular powerplants [mitochondria]. Phospholipids are a necessary fatty compound. Their presence maintains an elasticity and permeability of cell membranes that permits the continual flow of nutrients and oxygen. Without phospholipids, cell membranes would harden and cells would starve and die. A decrease in the major phospholipids is age-dependent. This decline could be corrected through a diet including polyunsaturated fatty acids [PUFA's], resulting with improvements in neurotransmission.

Phosphatidylserine [PS[ is implicated in brain aging. As we age, levels of acetylcholine, critical to the ability of neurons to communicate, decline.

 

Botannical Herbs

Botanical agents lack complete acceptance as a reputable therapy, due to lack of clinical studies. However a few that have been recognised are:

  • Ginkgo biloba extract - recognized for its ability to protect cell membranes from free radical damage, and for improvements in short-term memory. Proven beneficial in patients with Parkinson's Disease, for reducing the prominence of theta waves, the wave of sleep and unconsciousness.
  • Ginseng - active ingredient, ginsenoside, is suspected to facilitate learning and memory by promoting an increase in the number of synapses formed in the hippocampal region. This region is highly susceptible to both aging and stress. Ginseng's nootropic abilities include enhancement of immune function, motor skills, and promotion of neuronal function.

 

Micronutrients

Most foods contain some vitamins and minerals, but micronutrients are especially abundant in fruits and vegetables. To ensure a plentiful supply of these antioxidants, include at least the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. [10 servings for anti-aging diets.]

A serving is generally a small fruit or half a cup of cubed fruit; a cup of raw green leafy vegetables or half a cup of cooked greens; a half cup of other cooked or raw vegetables. These fruits and vegetables should be of wide variety and color – preferably in season, organic, and locally grown.

 

Minerals

The key mineral ions in the brain are sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These must be maintained in critical balance.

  • Low calcium levels produce, painful muscle contractions with dizziness, confusion, and even seizures. Hyperventilation causes a sudden drop in blood calcium levels that produces tetany.
  • Magnesium can reduce brain irritation and block seizures during alcohol withdrawal and toxemia during pregnancy.
  • Extra calcium and magnesium tend to have a calming effect and are safe to take in supplemental form.
  • Potassium intake is often deficient and increased potassium intake is desirable.
  • Sugars and sodium salts are used in moderation.

 

Water

Your brain is about 80 percent water, so it is logical you need adequate water to hydrate the brain. Even slight dehydration can raise stress hormones; and damage the brain over time. Green tea and ginseng tea are also good for brain function as they contain chemicals that enhance mental relaxation and alertness.

Ensure you supply of water is free of contaminants.

 

Balance Protein, EFA's and Carbohydrates

Unbalanced diet fads, like the Atkins diet are not a healthy long term way to eat for your body or your brain. More balanced diets, such as The Zone, Sugarbusters, the South Beach Diet, and Powerful Foods for Powerful Minds and Bodies provide a balanced nutrition for both body and brain.

Balancing proteins, good fats, and good carbohydrates is essential. Having protein at each meal helps to balance blood sugar levels; and prevents the brain fog that accompanies just eating simple carbohydrates. At each meal or snack, try to get a balance of protein, high fiber carbohydrates, and fat.

Simple suggestions include:

  • Fibre to boost congnitive functioning.
  • Eggs - rich in choline, to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine
  • Salad - full of antioxidants helping to control damaging free radicals.
  • Yogurt - contains the amino acid tyrosine, needed for the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin.
  • Strawberries and blueberries - improve coordination, concentration and short-term memory.

In summary, the adverse brain effects of nutrient deficiencies, the toxic effect of molecules derived from food, and the immunogenic potential of food proteins and peptides are largely under-recognized. There are many clues that link our diets to neurological diseases. Any symptom of brain-dysfunction should immediately trigger a thorough revision of the diet.

Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment, learning, and motivation, support is often required in doing so.

 
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