Brain Foods - Food for Thought

Age related illnesses | October 6, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Brain, dementia, age related

Brain Foods - Food for Thought

Australian society is getting older, and with this ageing comes an increase in brain diseases - Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, among others. 

As we age our brain shrinks, which affects our memory, learning and concentration. Many studies have demonstrated that nutrition can play a beneficial role in protecting the brain and slowing the progression of cognitive decline.

Brain-Healthy Diets

  • Mediterranean Diet Reduced Brain Shrinkage

A study in older adults found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had less brain shrinkage than those who did not. Previous studies have found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and improvements in cognitive function.

In general, the Mediterranean diet is characterised by abundance of plant foods: fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds, and a moderate intake of fish and seafood. Eggs, dairy products and occasional poultry are also part of the Mediterranean diet, but red meat and sweets are rarely eaten. Water and wine are typical beverages, and olive oil is the principal source of dietary fat, used for cooking, baking, and for dressing of salads and vegetables.
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  • MIND Diet Slows Cognitive Decline and Lowers Risk of Alzheimer’s

The MIND diet was specifically developed for brain health by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The diet emphasises foods and nutrients shown through research to be associated with dementia prevention. It is based on components of two diets: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which was developed to lower blood pressure.
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The MIND diet specifies brain healthy foods/food groups that contain nutrients that are particularly good for our brain and may help slow cognitive decline.

Brain-Healthy Foods

Brain-Healthy Foods​Green leafy vegetables - Kale; spinach; lettuce; bok choy - are all great sources of folate, vitamins E, A and K, lutein, and beta-carotene.

Other vegetables - Green/red peppers, squash, cooked carrots, raw carrots, broccoli, celery, potatoes, peas or lima beans, tomatoes, green beans, beetroot, corn, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage – vegetables contain natural compounds called phytonutrients or phytochemicals that impact cognitive health.

Berries – Berries, especially blueberries, contain powerful phytochemicals that are high in antioxidant power and have shown to delayed cognitive ageing by 2.5 years. 
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Nuts – Eating 30 g of nuts per day may reduce the risk of stroke, which in itself is a major risk factor for cognitive impairment. Walnuts in particular may help boost memory, concentration and the speed at which your brain processes information.

Beans - the consumption of more than three serving of legumes per week - beans; lentils; chickpeas; soybeans - among elderly Italians was found to prevent cognitive decline

Whole grains - whole grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, millet and spelt are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. They are rich in B vitamins, as well as minerals and fibre.

Fish and seafood - fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies contain Omega-3 fatty acids that are structural components of brain cells and as such are essential for optimal brain function.

Poultry – the MIND diet recommends ≥2 poultry meals per week

Olive oil - higher intakes of olive oil are associated with better memory function.

Wine - Red wine contains resveratrol; this polyphenol, found in the skin of red grapes, might promote longevity by reducing inflammation.
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Brain-Healthy FoodsTea and coffee - The caffeine in your morning cup may help boost your memory. Green tea is even a better choice than coffee; it contains polyphenol compounds, which have antioxidant effects that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment.
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Dark chocolate – The cocoa bean from which chocolate is made is rich in compounds called flavanols that have been found to increase blood flow to the brain and enhance brain function.
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Turmeric – This ancient spice contains a compound called curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that seem to protect the brain.
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Foods that aren’t Healthy for the Brain

High intakes of these foods are associated with poor memory:

  • Red and processed meats
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Soft drinks
  • Fried/fast food 

Brain-Healthy Lifestyle

There’s no doubt that what you eat can impact the health of your brain, but lifestyle choices maybe as important:

Cognitive FitnessCognitive Fitness

Experts suggest that mental workouts, also called cognitive fitness, can generate new neurons in the brain as we age. In other words, they can modify the physical makeup of your brain and increase our cognitive reserves. These mental workouts include learning new skills, such as playing a musical instrument or learning a new language, as well as reading, playing games, crossword puzzles, etc. 

Physical activity

Daily exercise may reduce the risk of dementia. Researchers found that aerobic exercise can trigger growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that is associated with memory. Choose an activity that you enjoy and that fits easily into your life, such as running, walking, swimming, dancing, climbing stairs and gardening.

Social connectedness 

Your social environment can affect your cognitive function. Studies demonstrate that loneliness increases the risk of dementia, while strong and meaningful ties to other people are associated with healthy brain.

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References

Anastasiou, C.A. et al., 2017. Mediterranean diet and cognitive health: Initial results from the Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet. PloS one, 12(8), p.e0182048. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28763509

Gilkey, R. & Kilts, C., 2007. Cognitive fitness. Harvard business review, 85(11), p.53–4, 56, 58 passim. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18159786

Hardman, R.J. et al., 2016. Adherence to a Mediterranean-Style Diet and Effects on Cognition in Adults: A Qualitative Evaluation and Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Prospective Trials. Frontiers in Nutrition, 3, p.22. Available at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Article/10.3389/fnut.2016.00022/abstract

Harvard Health, 2017. Foods linked to better brainpower. Healthbeat. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower

Jackson, P.A. et al., 2016. Promoting brain health through exercise and diet in older adults: a physiological perspective. The Journal of physiology, 594(16), pp.4485–98. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27524792

Kmietowicz, Z., 2015. Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced brain shrinkage in older people, study finds. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 351, p.h5556. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26493230

Ma, Q.-P. et al., 2016. Meta-Analysis of the Association between Tea Intake and the Risk of Cognitive Disorders K. Chen, ed. PLOS ONE, 11(11), p.e0165861. Available at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0165861

Mazza, E. et al., 2017. Impact of legumes and plant proteins consumption on cognitive performances in the elderly. Journal of Translational Medicine, 15(1), p.109. Available at: http://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-017-1209-5

Morris, M.C. et al., 2015. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 11(9), pp.1015–22. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086182

Morris, M.C. et al., 2015. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 11(9), pp.1007–14. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25681666

Nokia, M.S. et al., 2016. Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained. The Journal of Physiology, 594(7), pp.1855–1873. Available at: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1113/JP271552

Poey, J.L., Burr, J.A. & Roberts, J.S., 2017. Social Connectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Dementia: Does the Social Environment Moderate the Relationship Between Genetic Risk and Cognitive Well-Being? The Gerontologist. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28329797

Samieri, C. et al., 2013. Mediterranean diet and cognitive function in older age. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.), 24(4), pp.490–9. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23676264

Torjesen, I., 2017. Elderly followers of Mediterranean diet retain brain volume better, study finds. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 356, p.j49. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28062408

Vauzour, D., et al, 2017. Nutrition for the ageing brain: Towards evidence for an optimal diet. Ageing Research Reviews, 35, pp.222–240. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163716301027

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