Eat This, Enjoy a Bigger Brain
March 19th, 2014 by NHI
Every day, at every meal, most of us experience what some experts call a “nutrition gap” — we’re missing out on a powerful brain-boosting nutrient that is woefully low in our diets.
This nutrient has the potential to protect you against Alzheimer’s disease and keep your brain from shrinking as you age as well as producing a host of other health benefits. Brain shrinkage is a so-called “natural” result of aging. You don’t want it. And this nutrient can help slow it down or stop it. Keep reading…
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The wonder-nutrient so many neglect is fish oil with its omega-3 fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Eat this, get a bigger brain
Researchers in a six month study gave daily doses of DHA to a group of older adults who were already suffering mild cognitive impairments (i.e. their memories were starting to slip). The scientists found that it improved their memory and learning abilities.
According to Duff MacKay, with the Council for Responsible Nutrition, “The results of this study are very encouraging for those consumers concerned about maintaining memory. We know that lower DHA levels are associated with cognitive decline in healthy elderly and Alzheimer’s patients, and higher DHA levels help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Even though this research showed that fish oil could help those who were already having memory difficulties, MacKay and others believe that the sooner you start consuming nutrients like DHA and EPA, the better.
A study of more than a thousand women in their late 70s showed that those who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had larger brains. That kind of increased brain size shrinks your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. I think it’s a remarkable finding – higher DHA level equals bigger brain.
“These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years,” says researcher James V. Pottala, Ph.D., of the University of South Dakota.
In Pottala’s research, the women with more EPA and DHA in their blood had brains whose hippocampus was 2.7 percent larger. The hippocampus is a key brain structure that functions in memory. People doomed to Alzheimer’s experience a shrinking hippocampus even before their memories start to degrade. A size boost of 2.7 percent may not sound like much, but it’s highly significant.
Early Brain Protection
Research on lab animals supports the benefit of beginning to consume EPA and DHA before your mental capacity begins to slip. In one of these studies, when animals that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s began an EPA-enriched diet early in life (along with receiving B vitamins and other nutrients) their memories survived in better shape than did those of animals eating a “normal,” non-enriched diet.
That’s a slap in the face to conventional doctors who say supplements are a waste of money – just a way of creating “expensive urine” – ha ha. You have to wonder what planet they live on. Trust me on this: If you listen to them you will pay a dreadful price and forgo many added years of good, healthy life.
According to Alex Richardson, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention at the University of Oxford, England, all of us should be taking fish oil supplements and consuming wild (not farmed) fish. Farmed fish are lower in DHA and EPA. Wild fish, of course, raise the issue of mercury contamination, so personally I rely on supplements that promise they’re free of heavy metals.
Richardson points out that the average American daily consumes only 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, of which only .2 grams are DHA or EPA.
To protect your cardiovascular system, the American Heart Association recommends .500 grams of DHA and EPA each day for healthy adults and .9 grams a day for people with heart disease. That translates to one fatty fish meal per day, or one daily fish oil supplement. Again I slightly disagree. Eating fish every day would be heavy going for me, and I worry about heavy metals, so supplements sound like a better choice.
Richardson recommends .500 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day for children and 1 gram a day for pregnant women to ensure that youngsters’ brains develop correctly.