Cloudy thinking, forgetful, illogical? ‘Brain foods’ can help!
We wall have days when our thinking is fuzzy, our logic defies reason, when we can’t for the life of us remember some name or fact that was so familiar just the day before. On days like those, you might want to trade in your grey matter for a new, improved model with rechargeable batteries and a software system that lets you discover the unknown secrets of the universe in one easy lesson.
Unfortunately, we have to make do with Mother Nature has given us. Luckily, that’s usually more than adequate. And with better nutrition, we can make better use of the brainpower we do have – and even stave off the mental deterioration we know as senility.
Oxygen Clears The Mind, Keep All Circuits Functioning!
IRON – POOR INTELLECT
“The brain needs large amount of oxygen to function effectively, and the only way it can get it is through iron packed red blood cells” says Don M. Tucker, associate professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.
Some studies show that children with iron – deficiency anemia have short attention spans and trouble learning new material. They also show the boosting iron intake reverses those problems.
Alertness And Memory Can Suffer With “Low But Normal” Iron Levels!
And Dr Tucker’s research shows that adults can suffer from related problems with alertness and memory when their iron levels are in the “low but normal” range.
In one study, for instance, the higher the blood iron levels, the greater the word fluency. (Volunteers were asked to come up with as many words as they could that begin with “Q” and end with “L”. In another, in adults over age 60, blood iron levels were one of the more important measures in determining whether or not the person has normal brainwave patterns.
“Getting enough oxygen to the brain is certainly part of its function, but we think iron also influences brain chemical and pathways,” Dr Tucker says. “We know no that iron is heavily concentrated in a part of the reticular activating system. This area of the brain turns the brain on, so to speak. It maintains alertness. So we can’t help but think that iron plays an important role in awareness and alertness.”
Sources of Iron: Liver, brain, kidney, meat, fish, oysters, shrimps, egg yolk, beans, cereals, lentils, leafy vegetables, drumstick leaves.
The brain seems o have a special need for the B Vitamins. Memory loss, disorientation, hallucinations, lack of coordination, and personality changes can occur with B-complex deficiencies.
Short-Term Memory Is Sometimes Impaired In Alcoholic Who Develop Thiamine Deficiencies.
Alcoholics, for instance, who sometimes develop thiamine (B1) deficiencies, have problems with short-term memory. They may remember in detail that little café in Paris 20 year ago, but not what they had fur supper the previous night.
Thiamine may also keep the brain thinking straighter and younger. An orthopedic surgeon in England thinks that thiamine deficiency can cause confusion and that confusion can lead to stumbles and broken bones.
The surgeon, M. W. J. Older, had noticed that people who come to him for hip and thighbone surgery all experienced a dip in their thiamine levels as results of the stress of the operation. He also noticed that until the thiamine shortage passed, the patients suffered a bout of confusion.
Digging a little deeper, Dr Older found that patients who come in for elective hip surgery – planned in advance, that is – weren’t thiamine – deficient before the operation, and that their post surgical thiamine deficiency didn’t last so long. But the patients with emergency fractures, he discovered, were deficient before, during, and after their operations. That raised the possibility that preoperative thiamine-related confusion may even helped cause the emergencies.
“mental confusion in the elderly awaits further study, “Dr older notes, “but our data support the concept that thiamine deficiency may be a contributory factor to postoperative confusion. We suggest that the causation of fracture itself may be attributable to thiamine deficiency, with confusion precipitating the fall”.
The Most Promising Anti-Senility Nutrients?
But if there were a contest for the most promising anti-senility nutrients, the price might be awarded to vitamin B6 and copper. Two University of Texas nutritionists have reported (in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), the remarkable news that a deficiency of B6 or copper in young rats causes some of the same kind of brain cell abnormalities as those seen in senile humans. The results implied that those two nutrients might prevent mental decline.
Science, of course, is never hat simple. But the evidence seems striking. The researches found, among other things, that in rats and humans, the dendrites – delicate, branching roots that carry electrical impulses from one brain cell to another – tend to shrivel up and die when deprived of B6 or cooper. Without the all important dendrites, brain circuitry breaks down.
Though the rats were fed a diet skimpier in the two nutrients than any human diet would be, the researches said that a mild deficiency of those nutrients over the years could have the same devastating effect. The Texas researches, Elizabeth Root and John Longenecker, recommended getting adequate of B6, copper and other nutrients into the diet as soon as possible for the sake of prevention.
For Best Results, Catch The Deficiencies Early!
“If you catch these changes early then you might prevent some of the neurological damage from occurring,” Dr Root says. “But it’s not just B6 and copper. People who have a poor diet in general are the most likely to get into trouble. We’re starting some more experiments on the possible effects of deficiencies in magnesium and foliate, two nutrients that also come up low in most diet surveys.”
Sources: B1 (thiamine: Unpolished rice, wheat, bajra and jowar.
B6: Egg yolk, liver, meat, fish, milk, whole grains, cabbage and other green vegetables.
Copper: liver, nuts, dried fruits, cereals, pulses, meat products, fruits, vegetables, oysters and fish.
Even Mild Deficiencies Of B12, C, Folate, And Riboflavin Can Impede Brain Function.
KEEPING A KEEN MIND
Actually, there’s evidence that physically healthy people over age 60 can be measurably keener of mind that their peers if they maintain sufficient dietary levels of vitamins B12, C, Foliate and riboflavin. Even milked virtually unnoticeable deficiencies of those nutrients can mean less than optimal brain function.
At the University of New Mexico, senility experts Jean Goodwin and her husband, James Goodwin, and other placed advertisements in newspaper and on TV and radio asking for volunteers for an experiment. Each volunteer had to be at least 60 years old, free of all serious diseases, and not on medication. After a screening process, Goodwin chose 260 men and women between the ages of 60 and 94 from various social and income levels.
All the volunteers gave a sample of their blood and filled out a three day food diary stating exactly that they ate during that period. Taken together, the blood test and diet survey showed the researchers almost exactly what each person’s levels of most vitamins and minerals were.
Memory And Problem-Solving Tests Administered To 260 People Yielded Definite Nutritional Links.
After the process, the volunteers underwent two mental performance tests. In the first one, a researcher read a one paragraph store to each person and asked hi to repeat it as quickly and accurately as possible. A half hour later the volunteers had to recite the paragraph from memory, with no cues. The second test measured each person’s ability to solve non-verbal problems and to think abstractly.
The researchers fed all the test scores and nutritional profiles into a computer and waited to see if good nutrition would correlate with quicker thinking. It turned out that the volunteers with the lowest B12 and C Levels scored worst on the memory test. Those with the lowest level of B12, C, Foliate and riboflavin did worst on the problem solving test.
“We showed that in population of healthy older people, those people who had a deficient intake and low blood levels of certain vitamins scored significantly worse on the test,” said Dr Jean Goodwin. “Our recommendation is that everyone maintain an adequate intake of those nutrients,”
Sources: B12: Milk, cheese, eggs, beef kidney, heart and liver, chicken liver. (Animal foods are the main source, and pure vegetarians who exclude even milk from their diet, run a risk of developing a deficiency)
Foliate: Vegetables, cereals, Meat and liver.
Riboflavin: Milk, meat, cereals and pulses.
Vitamin C: Green vegetables, fruits (especially guavas, oranges, sweet limes and lemons) and fresh crop potatoes.
THE PROMISE OF CHOLINE
Thiamine and B12 are also needed to produce and use one of the brain’s major chemical messengers, acetylcholine.
Choline: The Active Component Of “Brain Foods” Like Fish, Liver, And Eggs.
But the real star in acetylcholine production is another B vitamin, choline. Manu of the foods touted as “brain foods” – fish for instance, liver and eggs contain choline a substance researches are finding really can help preserve the brain’s ability to reason learn, and remember. Choline is the building block for a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that sends messages between brain cells.
For instance, researchers at Ohio State University recently found that mice fed a diet heavy in choline rich lecithin had much better memory retention than mice on regular diets. They took much longer to go into back room in their cages where they had received a mild electric shock, meaning they hadn’t forgotten their unpleasant experience.
What’s more, their brain cells, examined under a microscope, showed fewer of the expected sighs of aging, says Ronald Mervis of Ohio state University’s brain Aging and neuronal Plasticity Research Group.
Sources: (Choline): fish, liver, eggs, heart, soyabeans, peanuts.
Can Lecithin Provide A Brain Boost?
Like fiber or fish oil, it’s slowly becoming a household word. You may have heard of it already lecithin.
What’s the big to do? Studies have suggested that lecithin may aid memory and even slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
But what is lecithin? Found naturally in soybean, eggs, butter, corn and milk, lecithin is used in medicines, food, even cosmetics as a wetting, emulsifying and penetrating agent. It’s the lecithin that keeps the fat and the cocoa from separating an in chocolate, for instance, and in keeps margarine from splattering when hot.
For years, lecithin has been sold in health food stores in the west as a treatment for everything, from heart disease to weight loss. In fact so many clans have been made that some proponents are worried about over kill.
Just how solid is the lecithin memory connection? Lecithin is precursor to choline, and scientists re excited about animal studies that suggest lecithin may slow down one part of the ageing process: the degeneration of brain cells, and therefore normal age-related memory loss., says Dr. Mervis, “Normally, as the brain ages, its cell membranes become more rigid with fatty deposits and lose their ability to take in and release brain chemicals and to merely messages.” This can cause memory loss and the confused thinking.
A Lecithin-Rich Diet Appears To Keep Nerve Channels Open.
But a lecithin rich diet seems to repress or delay this membrane hardening.
As part of the deterioration process, aging brain cells also tend to lose dendrite spines, the chemicals receptor areas that are vitally important is passing along information.
Having too few dendrite spines is like having a bad phone connection. Messages get distorted and lost. But lecithin fed older mice had the same number of dendrite spines as much younger mice.
“Despite the difference between mice and people there are, nevertheless, remarkable similarities in the structure of their never cells,” Says Dr Mervis. “I believe lecithin could help to repress or delay similar problems in people.”
Can Lecithin Boost Min Power In Normal, Healthy People?
In fact, in some studies, lecithin has shown some promise in boosting the mind power of normal, healthy persons.
“Our studies show that choline has a week modern memory enhancement effect” says Dr Mervis. “It’s not a robust effect, but it can be measured.”
On two separate days, they gave ten healthy volunteers, raging in age from 21 to 29, either a supplement of 10 gms of choline chloride or an identical appearing but worthless substitute. Then after an hour and a half, the people were given a memory test.
In a serial learning test, subjects had to memorize in proper order a sequence of ten unrelated words. The list was read to each person and repeated as often as necessary until perfect recall was achieved and could be repeated twice in a row.
“Choline significantly enhanced serial recall of unrelated words as measure by the number o trials required… ,” the researchers reported. “Furthermore, the enhancement was more pronounce in ‘slower’ subjects than in subjects who performed well.”
Indeed, Choline Enhanced Memory – Particularly In People Who Were Forgetful.
In other words, the people most in need of help had their memories prodded the most when they took choline. One individual who normally need six trial readings to master a ten-word list cut that to four after taking choline. Another dropped from seven to five attempts with choline supplement.
One person who normally required ten trials to aster a list of difficult words reduced to five (a 50 percent improvement!) after taking choline.
Long-Term Effects Of Choline Supplementation Are Still Unknown.
As promising as Dr Mervis’ results were, however, he as quick to point out that many questions still remains. For example, these test measured memory 90 minutes after a single dose of choline and the doses of choline given in these test were at lest the times as great as the 900 milligrams or less supplied by a typical diet. We still don’t know how long the effects last or whether they would continue over several weeks or months if extra choline were consumed daily.
And the trials involved only younger, healthy volunteers with a normal range of remembering ability.
Moreover, high doses of lecithin can cause gastrointestinal cramps, diarrhea or nausea in some people.
So, what can we say for sure about lecithin?
Basically, that we really need more solid evidence before promoting it as a super nutrient. Some great ideas turn out to be the truth. But the whole truth about lecithin is still to be learned.
Meanwhile there’s no harm in upping your intake of fish, soybeans and corn. You may just give your brain power a little boost.