Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

 Brain Fitness

What Does Your Brain Truly Need?

What Is Neuroplasticity?

When Does Your Brain Begin To Age?

Which Natural Brain Boosters Work?

Be Smart! Look Inside….

 

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

What Does Your Brain Truly Need?

Physical exercise is the single best activity for enhancing brain function.

Simply stated, when we work to be physically fit, we support our brains at the same time.

Beyond physical exercise, mental exercise also keeps the brain in shape – particularly learning something new. Of course, everything we do to support a healthy lifestyle – healthy food, adequate sleep, etc. – likewise supports brain function.

In this issue of Nutrition News, it becomes apparent that the brain has two loves. It loves physical exercise and it loves novelty. After a good workout, lifelong learning is the brain’s second favorite occupation.

Are you surprised? Read on and learn more….

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

Brain Fitness & Neuroplasticity

When we learn something new or adapt to something new, our brain integrates the information by remapping (rearranging) our existing neurons. This ability is called neuroplasticity.

As we form new neural pathways, we build our cognitive reserve in much the same way that our muscles grow stronger and more capable with training.

Every thought we generate is accompanied with an electrical signal between neurons along neuronal pathways. This process never stops.

As it turns out, generating a thought releases about enough energy to power a small lightbulb. Fun, huh?

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

Brain Fitness & Brain Essence

The two sides of the brain have been much researched. Each hemispheres operates the opposite side of the body: The right operates the left side while the left operates the right.

Men tend to be left brain dominant while women tend to draw from both. This is the usual explanation for men’s tendency to be task-oriented and women’s to be more intuitive and better communicators.

The brain is about 80 percent water. The next largest component is fat. (It is the fattiest organ in the body.) This makes it a soft pulpy mass. Constantly lubricated by the circulatory system, the heart pumps about a gallon of blood through the brain every four minutes.

Although adequate sleep is essential for brain function, paradoxically, the brain never sleeps. It is turned on 24/7 for life. When we sleep, it is more active—possibly integrating the information of our waking hours. (Think neuroplasticity.)

The brain uses glucose to fuel its constant activity. Though only about 3% of our total body weight, the brain burns 25 percent of the calories we eat in a day. All that brain work actually heats the brain. (We yawn to cool it down.) This brain intensity may be the reason we can feel so tired after a long day at the office.

FYI: Although the brain has billions of neurons, it has no pain receptors. Headaches are from pain receptors in the head.

Surprisingly, the brain begins to age around age 24! Researchers reached that conclusion after studying 3,305 volunteers aged 16 to 44 years. The participants played a game approximating everyday situations.1 As expected, the speed with which the volunteers made decisions and changed tasks, declined with age.

Many studies have documented the deterioration of cognitive skills over time. Here, cognitive speed dropped after age 24 by about 1%/year every 15 years. The age-related decline remained, even as the players’ skills improved.

Over 24? Be of good cheer! The brain has its ways of making up for slowing down. While we may be getting slower, we are also getting smarter.

Brain Fitness & Brain Essence – Footnote 1

The game tested cognitive abilities, from concentration to juggling multiple tasks to shifting focus from immediate to long-term issues. The game recorded the players’ moves, and researchers analyzed the data from it.

 

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

Physical Fitness = Brain Fitness

Why? Exercise has positive effects for the hippocampus, a brain structure that is related to learning, memory, and the ability to organize thought and make decisions. Further, exercise also helps your brain to create new cells.

Studies show that exercise protects your brain in much the same way that it protects your heart. Healthy heart: Healthy brain.

At the University of Illinois, 120 adults began their fitness program by taking a brisk ten minute walk 3 times per week. For seven weeks, the participants added 5 minutes per week. Thus, at the end of the study, they were walking 40 minutes 3 times per week.

Not only did this moderate amount of exercise improve memory, it reversed age-related shrinking of the hippocampus!

How is this possible? Exercise brings increased blood flow to certain parts of the brain. This prompts the release of a brain chemical that scientists have called “Miracle-Gro for the brain”.2 This chemical stimulates the creation of new neurons, repairs cell damage, and strengthens synapses (the connections between brain cells).

This ground-breaking study demonstrated that the size of the hippocampus one can actually increase. Kirk Erickson, one of the study’s leading authors commented, “It was as if we’d rolled back the clock. It proves that exercising even in late adulthood is [worthwhile]”.3

Physical Fitness = Brain Fitness – Footnote 2

“Miracle-Gro” is brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF.

Footnote 3

There were two control groups in this study: One did nothing while the other did stretching and toning exercises. Neither group showed any changes in their brains. Be that as it may, stretching and toning are very useful for relieving and/or eliminating bodily aches and pains.

 

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

“Move It Or Lose It!”

Take 3 Easy Steps

Step 1. Engage in regular exercise! No excuses. A walk after dinner is a possibility for nearly everybody. Too many young people are sedentary; too many middle-aged persons are convinced they don’t have time; too many older individuals just don’t want to be bothered.

Step 2. Make Your Goal 150 Minutes Weekly – about 21 minutes a day. Younger? Work toward breaking a light sweat while still being able to converse. Too heavy? Begin by rising up and down on your toes for 10 minutes. Senior? Walk a little faster than your comfort zone. Committed couch potato? You walk anyway – just walk more.

Step 3. Add Strength Training. According to a study in the Journal of Aging Research, older women, with mild cognitive impairment, did weight training 1-2 hours for only 2 days a week for six months. Beyond stopping impairment, they improved their focus and decision-making skills. Plus, they were better able to resolve conflicts.

Exercising has further benefits, including reducing stress, controlling blood pressure, improving balance and coordination, enhancing mood, increasing focus, boosting energy, and amplifying feelings of well being. Don’t let your minds rot, people!

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

Brain Fitness & Brain Food

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This advice from food guru Michael Pollan couldn’t be better stated. Produce, including beans, delivers a multitude of fiber and nutrients to the body. Recent research reveals that plant chemicals called polyphenols are uniquely supportive of brain health, including the potential to promote memory, learning, and cognitive function. The following are designated “Brain Foods”.

• Blueberries. Called “Brain-berries” by Steven Pratt, MD, author of SuperFoods Rx. This tiny, powerful berry helps protect the brain and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A group of adults with mild cognitive impairment ate freeze-dried blueberry powder daily, equal to 1 cup of berries. After 16 weeks, the berry eaters had improved memory, better cognitive performance, and increased brain activity.

Strawberries and cranberries are also linked to improved brain function.

• Nuts and seeds. Terrific sources of vitamin E, common nuts, including peanuts, have long been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease while walnuts in particular are excellent brain food.

Researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center studied the lifestyle habits of 6,000 people not at risk for Alzheimer’s. Those who ate the most vitamin E-rich foods had a reduced risk of developing AD. Vitamin E traps free radicals that can damage brain cells.

• Avocados. “Almost as good as blueberries,” says Dr. Pratt. These buttery fruits are rich in monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow to the brain and heart. Rich in potassium, they also lower blood pressure. An avocado contains 10 grams of fiber, about 1/3 the daily requirement.

• Cruciferous veggies. Kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, bok choy, etc. These sulphur-containing superfoods provide powerful antioxidants that protect your brain.

• Whole grains. Remember, our brain uses 25 percent of our energy in the form of glucose. Whole grains are carbohydrates which make a slow delivery of glucose to the brain without raising blood sugar.

Science Daily reports that whole grains also boost cardiovascular health, enhancing the flow of blood to the brain. Rich sources include brown rice, quinoa, rye, oats, and barley.

• Coffee & Tea. Coffee is a well-known antioxidant and is also neuroprotective. It can help your brain perform at its best. Caffeine improves memory and speeds up reaction times.

What about tea? Drunk regularly, 1-3 cups of either black or green tea may cut the risk of dementia among older adults by 50 percent. And, for those who are genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, regular tea drinking may cut that risk by 86 percent!

• Dark chocolate. No. 8 of the 100 richest polyphenol foods, chocolate needs to be very high in cacao and very low in sugar and fat to earn the name “health food”. (Milk chocolate is just candy.)

Red wine. Yep, drinking red wine in moderation is good for our minds. According to research from UCLA, the antioxidant EGCG – found in red wine and green tea – may block beta-amyloid-forming proteins, precursors to the development of Alzheimer’s.

Two foods on our list are sourced from animals: Deep sea fish/salmon and eggs.

• Salmon or other omega-3 source. The brain loves omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of these unsaturated fats are linked with smaller brain volume and worse performance on certain tests of mental function.

Adults under age 25 who increased their omega-3 intake over six months improved their scores on tests measuring working memory. (Algal sourced omega-3 is available.)

• Eggs. Long considered the perfect protein for humans, those bright, round yolks are rich in choline, a B vitamin-like nutrient. The brain uses choline to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for maintaining memory and communication among brain cells.

Boston University researchers tracked the eating habits of nearly 1,400 healthy adults for 10 years and found that higher choline intake correlated with better performance on specific memory tests.

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

SMART PILLS

Called nootropics, the market for “smart pills” is predicted to reach $11.6 Bn by 2024!4

Brain health supplements are used to enhance memory, attention, mood, creativity, and motivation in healthy individuals. Statistics show a growing number of individuals, from students to seniors, are using these supplements to improve brain function.

Nootropics deliver a better result if they are backed with “Brain Food” and basic nutritional supplements. “The Basics”: a multi-vitamin-mineral formula,5 plus additional vitamin C (I take 1000 mg), vitamin D (1000 IU; up to 5000 IU in winter), vitamin E (200 IU of complete E), magnesium (magnesium citrate or plant-based, 400 mg divided doses).

Also recommended are an adaptogen, such as ashwagandha, and omega-3 oil (fish oil or algae-based, 1000 mg of EPA & DHA). The last two are especially important to support brain function.

The Smart Pills listed here come from the Life Extension Foundation short list. (LEF is always on the cutting edge of brain enhancing interventions.)

• EPA/DHA. These are omega-3 fatty acids mainly sourced from deep sea fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies. Also, vegan DHA supplements from algae are available. (DHA is the more important brain food.)

The intake of 95% of us is insufficient to protect our hearts/minds.  Supplement 1000 mg of EPA/DHA daily.

• Acetyl-L-carnitine. ALC readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. A landmark Italian study confirmed that ALC improves attention, hand-eye coordination, and reflex speed. Participants in this study took 1500 mg of ALC daily. The usual dose is 500-1000 mg.

• Phosphatidylserine. Called “the essential brain nutrient”, PS enhances the availability of ALC (above), supports memory, lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and promotes the release of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter known to improve mood and movement control. Dose 200 – 400 mg twice daily.

• Alpha-Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline. aGPC has been shown to improve memory since the early 1990s. LEF documents results equal or superior to prescription meds. Dose 250-600 mg, divided doses.

• Huperzine A: Derived from club moss (Huperzia serrata), this herb inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, leaving more of the neurotransmitter for relaying messages throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Dose 200 – 400 mcg daily.

• Bacopa Monnieri. An Ayurvedic herb long used to enhance memory has been shown to have this effect by modern research methods. It also reduces physical pain. Dose is 300 mg.

• Ginkgo biloba: From one of Earth’s oldest trees, Ginkgo supports brain health and memory by improving circulation, helping maintain normal function and tone of blood vessels, and boosting oxygen and glucose metabolism. Dose 120 mg 1x/d of standardized extract. (Check label for capsule size.)

Brain Fitness & Smart Pills Footnote 4

Sales were $2.3 Bn in 2015.

 

Footnote 5

The MVM insures sufficient amounts of vitamin B complex, essential for all aspects of the nervous system.

 

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

The Gut-Brain Connection

It’s probiotics again! These microbiota are everywhere. (Thought they were only in the gut?) Now we learn they’re affecting our brains.

Neuroscientist John Cryan investigates how the gut microbiome affects mammal brains. One study showed that taking a specific probiotic resulted in more relaxed behavior.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, contains a neurotransmitter called GABA that helps regulate brain activity and can calm anxiety. As this research shows, altering bacteria in the gut affects brain chemistry.

Indications are that certain microbiota may help to treat stress-related and neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and hyperactivity.

Nutrition News Brain Fitness Cover

This is a photo of a child prodigy. How do these children differ from us?

When Ruthsatz and Urbach profiled 8 prodigies, one shared similarity was working memory.

All scored in the 99th per­centile. Working memory allows us to complete a task by holding multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time. Working memory can be trained.

Siri Says: Here comes hemp!

“Can CBD Really Reverse Alzheimer’s…?” This question was posed by my colleague Janet Zand, OMD, Lac. CBD oil is a cannabinoid derived from both the cannabis and hemp plants.

CBD oil is not psychoactive. (Read more about the difference in Nutrition News, “Hemp Revolution”.) We have receptors for cannabinoids in both our brains and our immune systems.

Our brains produce molecules called endo-cannabinoids that use the receptors for cell-signaling, regulating the immune system, and protecting cells from inflammation.

In many cases, brain deterioration can be traced directly to cell destruction by inflammation. Will this lead to CBD supplementation as a means of protecting the brain?