Tag Archives: brain health diet

Obesity and a Happy Brain

Brain HealthAs most of us get into middle age we might take special notice of our body’s ability to keep a few extra pounds around the waist. Most of us understand the importance of eating healthy and the disease risk associated with extra weight around the belly.

Recent research suggests the brain’s ability to sense gratification may be critical to overeating behavior. We may have a gene that assists us with knowing when we are filled after eating. Research now indicates that a brain that does not express satiation will lead to continued eating and increased risk of obesity.

We know that a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important for maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity. However, genetics also plays a role in which an important neurochemical, Dopamine, may play a critical role. Dopamine is the primary neurochemical that regulates our pleasure sensation.

Eating temporarily boosts dopamine levels, but obesity may be associated with fewer Dopamine receptors which lead to less sensation of pleasure with eating. Research now suggests that the brain regions important to Dopamine expression when eating treats such as a milkshake does not get activated in those who are obese.

Interestingly, Dopamine has been studied as a primary mechanism for addiction and impulsive behavior including eating. Attempts are underway to try and understand how Dopamine might be triggered even in obesity to reduce impulsive eating so as to reduce gaining more weight. To read more about Dopamine, click here

Of Mice and Fries

A new study found mice that consumed junk food for nine months demonstrated signs of the abnormal brain tangles typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Indeed, a diet rich in fat, sugar, and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia.

The study published by the Karolinska Institute’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center found a chemical change in the brains that were fed the unhealthy diet, not unlike that found in the AD brain.

The researchers suggest a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic predisposition can adversely affect several brain substances that may contribute to onset of AD.

The combination of the gene type APOE-4, found in 15 to 20 percent of people and a known risk factor for AD, and the diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol led to the abnormal build up of the protein Tau and tangles. Interestingly, the animals also demonstrated reduced levels of another protein called Arc involved in memory storage.

The results offer another hint that AD may be attacked by lifestyle (diet) prior to its onset and progressive damage.

To read the original article, click here

Food and our Health

With regard to the human brain we can provide general advice about how to promote brain health across the lifespan. When we were cavemen and cavewomen we ate one good fat for every bad fat. Today, we eat about 15 bad fats for every good fat. This is important because our brains are composed of about 60% fat and the lipid substance helps to facilitate information processing.

Thinking live a cave person might be a good exercise when thinking about what to eat. We should try and eat plants/vegetables, nuts, beans, fruit, fish, and lean game such as chicken. We should try to reduce processed foods, red meat, trans fatty acids, soda and foods high in sugar. We should strive to eat less than more and use utensils more often as it might help to less consumption of food and a healthier consumption of foods.

It is also important to realize that foods are supposed to be pleasurable and that an occasional piece of cake, pie, ice cream, etc will not cause major damage to the system. This is particularly true when one follows some of the general advice above.

I personally have begun a study of my own diet with increased intake of fruits and vegetables, reduction in processed fats, removal of soda from the diet, and increased fish and lean chicken. It is not uncommon for me to now have fruit in the am and day with a salad (olive oil and vinegar are good for the brain), and a piece of fish or chicken at night. I have been relatively consistent though I fail now and then. I am observing change in body mass and in psychology including energy and mental alertness.

Stay tuned and I will provide you an update in the near future!

Wine Consumption and Health

A recent study has supported a relationship between an important ingredient in red wine and retardation of the aging process. Resveratrol, an ingredient of some red wines may have some life extending effects in mice and maybe in humans. The mechanism in play is switching the body’s resources from fertility to tissue maintenance. The improved tissue maintenance appears to extend life by reducing the degenerative diseases of aging.

Scientists believe this switching mechanism can be induced by a faminelike diet, known as caloric restriction that extends the life of  rodents by up to 30 percent, but similar effects in humans are not conclusive. Resveratrol has been shown to increase strength, endurance, and speed of lab mice. Findings from studies suggest resveratrol may be effective in mice and humans in smaller doses than previously known. Studies suggest a significant positive effect on aging in mice with dosages that mimic 4-5ounces of wine daily. Researchers believe resveratrol can mimic many of the effects of caloric restriction at doses that can be easily achieved by humans.

So….if you are not predisposed to alcoholism and your doctor has not restricted you from alcohol, one 4-5 ounce glass of red wine a day may indeed promote a healthier aging process.

Your Fatty Brain

As part of our ongoing discussion on brain fitness (e.g. brain games) and health lifestyle I have proposed, it is now time to consider the fattiest part of you……your brain.

Your brain, the most miraculous system ever designed in the history of the universe, weighs between two and four pounds and is made up of 60% fat. As a system of your body, it is indeed your fattiest. It is important to understand the role of the fat and how you may keep the fat nice and robust.

One role for the fat in your brain is to insulate neural tracks of cells to propel the electrical impulse carrying information in a rapid way. Without the fat, the brain cells are not insulated and information processing will slow. Many of us complain about how slow our computer is; imagine how tough it must be to suffer a slowing of our own information processing speed.

Research suggests Omega 3 fatty acids are a good source to build or maintain the healthy fat in our system and brain. Indeed, research suggests consumption of Omega 3s can help to fight off dementia. Foods rich in Omega 3s include fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines. Unsalted nuts such as walnuts are also rich in Omega 3s. It is suggested that we increase our fish intake to several ounces several times a week.

Another important brain boosting food includes fruits and vegetables because they are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to rid the body of oxygen based toxins known as free radicals thought to create breakdown in muscle and tissue. At least one national governing body indicates we should consume five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

For the New Year consider increasing your intake of fish, fruits and vegetables. Your brain deserves it!