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The Brain Diet: The Connection Between Nutrition, Mental Health, And Intelligence

Food exists in abundance today, but what are we eating? Foods with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the critically important omega-3 fatty acids? Or foods without them? Startling research in the journal Food Review shows that today a full 50 percent of the vegetables we eat consist of the trimmings on a hamburger and a side of fries. Most people today know that nutrition and health are related. We have heard that poor nutrition plays a role in cardiovascular disease and cancer, but what about other conditions? Is it an underlying factor in depression, anxiety, multiple scleroris, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, migraine headaches, ADHD, and more? And, if so, what can we do about it?

The Brain Diet explains the connection between diet, mental health, and realizing the full potential of our intelligence. It shows how poor nutrition adversely affects our mental health and success, and what can be done to achieve our full intellectual capacity (and to help our children do the same). Despite being just 2 percent of total adult weight, the human brain demands an enormous amount of energy and an ample flow of blood for it to work most effectively. Our ability to think, to reason, to create art and music, to develop technology and perform complex work, and much more is at stake in what we eat.

The Brain Diet explains the science behind how our brains function and provides suggestions for eating a healthy diet. Included are the basics of a brain-healthy diet, brain-healthy recipes, helpful charts, and food supplements that enhance our mental function (and the science behind how they work). A revolutionary new way of looking at mental health and intelligence, The Brain Diet gives new meaning to the adage, "You are what you eat."
There is one thing is for sure - there's no way around getting older. As we age, we are more likely to forget birthdays, appointments, conversations, and other important information. This so-called age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) is marked by mild deterioration in our memory, our performance of simple daily tasks, and the speed of our mental processing.

The causes of ARCD are largely unknown, but recent research suggests that certain deleterious conditions or activities, such as high blood pressure, poor nutrition, high levels of free radicals (reactive molecules that cause oxidative damage), metabolic disorders, smoking, low physical activity, and lack of mental challenge, may accelerate the rate of memory loss and mental decline.

But we don't have to sit back and take the aging process and its ensuing memory loss complacently. On the contrary, we can and should be proactive, taking advantage of current scientific research that suggests that we can prevent or retard ARCD.

Uuchecked ARCD may progress to dementia. We all realize that memory impairment is a natural part of growing older, and minor memory lapses are common. Cognitive decline as a result of aging can mean many different things. The type of information that is least easily recalled is generally nonessential and may simply reflect "forgetfulness." However, minor memory loss that progresses to a level where recent events are not remembered and everyday tasks are not performed properly may signal the onset of dementia. Dementia is a collective term that denotes memory loss along with a decline in intellectual functions, such as thinking and reasoning, in ways that interfere with normal activities such as cooking, household chores, and personal grooming. A persistent, steady decline in these areas may signal the onset of Alzheimer's disease, for example.

Nutrition and Cognitive Health

There are a number of nutrients that are believed to contribute to boosting your memory function. Selenium has been shown to improve cognitive function, by reducing free radical production that causes cell damage. SelenoExcell® high selenium yeast has been shown to be a very effective organically-bound form of selenium. Vinpocetine is a plant-derived compound that enhances blood circulation and oxygen and glucose utilization in the brain. Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is vital for allowing nerve cells to communicate with one another and process stored information (memory). Citicoline is a more potent form of choline and has been shown to improve both immediate and delayed memory in older individuals. Pregnenolone enhances various aspects of brain chemistry, including acetylcholine function, thus also improving memory performance. Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid (a fatty acid-containing compound) that has been found to improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer's disease. DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is known to enhance mood and alertness. There is the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, with lots of research attesting to the importance of this molecule in brain development, cognition, and memory.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There appears to be a widespread public misconception about dietary fat. The plain truth is that the body and mind need dietary fat, in reasonable quantities, to function optimally (or even at all - without fat, we would die). Dietary fats are often referred to as fatty acids, which simply means that a long fat molecule has an acidic group attached to one end. These fats come in a variety of types, including saturated (meaning that there are no double bonds between carbon atoms in the chain), monounsaturated (one double bond), and polyunsaturated (two or more double bonds). If this seems overly technical, just remember that saturated fats, such as butter, tend to be solids at room temperature, and unsaturated ones are usually oils.

Monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive, canola, and peanut oils) are generally considered to be healthier than polyunsaturated fats (e.g., sunflower, safflower, and corn oils). As we will see, however, members of a certain class of polyunsaturated fats, the omega-3 fatty acids, have many beneficial effects, particularly with respect to cognition and memory.

It has long been known that dietary fats are beneficial to brain function. Brain tissue is especially rich in these vital nutrients, which help to ensure normal nerve-cell function, and the brain does not function optimally if it is deprived of them. For example, when laboratory rats are maintained on diets deficient in polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid, commonly known as DHA (it's an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil), their learning and memory capabilities are significantly impaired. DHA is one of the primary fatty acids found in fish oils. This molecule is very important in the formation of the cellular membranes of nerve cells. When DHA is in short supply, the structural and functional integrity of the nerve cell is compromised. Thus it is not surprising that a number of studies demonstrate that DHA is required for normal brain development in humans. In studies with infants, it has been found that newborns supplemented with DHA exhibit improved brain development, which allows them to process information more rapidly.

Other Resources

Medscape Today

Healthy Brain Initiative

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