What can be done to keep the Brain Healthy?
07 November 2019
In honor of Senior Citizen’s Day in the States, we’re taking a hard look at stopping dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and food is one of the best ways to start. As you walk down the grocery store isle, you probably don’t think that the food you’re putting in your shopping cart can cause Alzheimer’s or dementia… but it can. Science has shown that the damage in the brain starts decades before the first symptoms appear! So, your daily habits, especially the food you eat, can play a major role in the likelihood you get these terrible diseases.
Eating strawberries, blueberries, and acai fruit have been correlated with multiple benefits for our brains, with studies demonstrating improved memory in children as young as 8 to 10 years old and all the way through older adulthood. For example, one study found that participants who ate a greater amount of berries experienced a slower cognitive decline, of up to 2.5 years difference, as they aged. In people with mild cognitive impairment, another study found that berries were associated with improved cognitive functioning.
Both caffeine in general and coffee specifically have been associated with cognitive benefits, including a significantly lower risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. Studies have also found specific benefits in overall memory, spatial memory, and working memory.
Leafy green vegetables contain vitamins that boost your brain functioning. In one study involving adults who were 58 years to 99 years old, eating kale was associated with the equivalent of being 11 years younger cognitively. Other studies have found a reduced risk of dementia in those with higher levels of folate (vitamin B9) which is found in leafy green vegetables.
Several studies have connected nut consumption to a lower risk of dementia. While some research demonstrates improved memory and recall in people whose cognitive functioning is normal, other research has shown that nuts may even be able to improve memory in those who already have Alzheimer’s disease’s!
Chocolate may be one of the tastiest ways to reduce the risk of dementia. Multiple studies have associated cocoa and dark chocolate with a lower chance of cognitive decline. The important clarification is that dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, generally is going to provide the most boost to your brain.
This is a somewhat controversial one since there are some risks associated with drinking alcohol, but multiple research studies demonstrated a cognitive benefit for those who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol. Some of this may be related to the resveratrol in red wine, but other research found this benefit in other kinds of alcohol as well. Keep in mind that there are some people who should never drink alcohol, such as alcoholics, those with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and those for whom it will interact with their medications.
The omega 3 fatty acids found in certain types of fish have been touted as great for your brain health, and most research conducted on this has agreed. Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut, and trout.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that cinnamon, when given to mice, was correlated with an improvement in the ability to clear the buildup of protein in the brain that’s connected with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as improve memory and other cognitive functioning. Researchers have often, but not always, found that results in mice are similar to those in humans. A small study in humans found that even just smelling cinnamon was correlated with an improvement in memory. Additionally, cinnamon has been associated with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, along with heart and lower blood pressure, all of which have been tied to better brain health.
Like curry? Curcumin has been demonstrated to be highly correlated with both preventing cognitive decline and treating dementia already present in mice. One challenge for humans is that our bodies often don’t easily absorb curcumin.
A heart-healthy diet of fruit and vegetables has been connected to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Load that plate with colorful veggies and fruits to ensure that you’re meeting your body’s needs for vitamins. Multiple studies have found that a decreased risk of cognitive impairment was tied to consuming higher amounts of fruits and vegetables.
As opposed to one specific food, the Mediterranean diet is an overall approach to eating and includes several of the foods previously listed. It has been demonstrated to be strongly connected to an improved cognitive functioning and a lower risk of the development of dementia.