Category Archives: Brain Health

Brains may need fat to delay aging

illustration-of-human-brainWe know that fat is exceptionally important to the development of young brains. Babies and young children need fat for proper growth. As we age, though, fat can have less positive effects on our bodies. And understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats helps us to become more aware of the importance of conscious eating. We read important information today regarding a possible link between a high-fat diet and brain aging that emphasizes the importance of healthy fats in our diets.

Brain aging can be delayed in mice if they are placed on a high-fat diet, according to a study conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the National Institute of Health.

It is normal for defects to appear in the nervous system as people age. Among these, the brain loses some of its intellectual capacity, and the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease increases.

Although human cells have a system for repairing damage to DNA, this repair function breaks down as we age.

This damage to DNA has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Cockayne syndrome – a premature aging disorder that results in death by the age of 10-12.

The new study uses a mouse model of Cockayne syndrome to investigate these defects to the DNA repair system.

Lead author Prof. Vilhelm Bohr – from the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health – describes the team’s findings:

“The study is good news for children with Cockayne syndrome, because we do not currently have an effective treatment. Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone [the] aging processes.”

“A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the aging of the brain. The findings, therefore, potentially imply that patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the long term may benefit from the new knowledge,” he adds.

The researchers explain that sugar and “ketones” are sources of energy that our brains require a constant supply of. When blood sugar is low, ketones are produced by the body breaking down fat.

The researchers found that the mice with Cockayne syndrome benefited from having an extra supply of similar brain fuel, provided here in the form of medium-chain fatty acids from coconut oil.

Although the researchers did not provide Medical News Today with data on the extent of the improvement in the mice with Cockayne syndrome, Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, from the National Institute of Health, further explains the results.

“In cells from children with Cockayne syndrome,” he says, “we have previously demonstrated that aging is a result of the cell repair mechanism being constantly active.”

“It eats into the resources and causes the cell to age very quickly,” Scheibye-Knudsen adds. “We therefore hope that a diet with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats will have a beneficial effect, because the brain cells are given extra fuel and thus the strength to repair the damage.”

FoodFacts.com is reminded that not all fats need to be avoided. Our bodies need the good ones. And according to this important information, our brains can especially benefit.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285067.php

Can water boost brain performance?

The FoodFacts.com community is comprised of nutritionally savvy, food-aware individuals who pride themselves on remaining educated about the foods and beverages they consume. So we know that everyone is aware that the human body is more than 60% water. Blood is about 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water and our bones are about 22% water. While a human being can survive for about a month without food, it can only go for about a week or so without water. That’s one really important liquid for humans.

And we know many of the benefits of drinking water (beyond survival). Water can help keep our skin clear, help us to lose and maintain our weight, keeps our bodily fluids balanced so we don’t dehydrate … the list goes on and on. Today we found a new reason to drink more water. New research has revealed that drinking water when we experience thirst may boost our cognitive abilities.

Researchers from the University of East London and the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom analyzed the potential effects of water on cognitive performance and mood among 34 participants. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, involved participants taking part in a “water” and a “no water” experiment one week apart.

The “water” experiment required the people to complete a number of mental tests after eating a cereal bar and drinking some water. The “no water” test meant the participants consumed just the cereal bar alone. The amount of water drunk by the participants in the “water” test depended on their level of thirst. The study found that reaction times were faster after people drank water, especially if they were thirsty before drinking.

In both experiments, the participants were asked to fast overnight, consuming no food or drink after 9pm before the day of testing. The participants were assessed via three measurements – a thirst scale, a mood scale and with a computer-administered variety of tasks called the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB).
The researchers analyzed particular areas of the participants’ brain, including reaction time, verbal recognition memory, visual memory and learning.

The participants who drank around three cups of water (775 milliliters) just before completing the tests had a 14% increased reaction time compared with those who did not drink any water. More specifically, water consumption appeared to have a corrective effect on the response times for thirsty individuals, bringing their speed of responding up to the level of non-thirsty individuals

Researchers noted that the study shows that water can be helpful for cognitive performance … and that sometimes it can be helpful to be thirsty. They also acknowledge that further study is needed to determine the reasons for the effects observed.

FoodFacts.com thinks this is a fascinating new reason to make sure we drink adequate amounts of water daily. We also think that the best reason to drink water is the simplest of all. Nothing can quench thirst like water. That’s probably because it’s so important for keeping our bodies functioning. Good hydration habits are key to our overall health and well-being.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263648.php

Mediterranean Diet linked to memory preservation and cognitive function

FoodFacts.com’s main focus and mission has always been to educate consumers on the relationship between our diets and our health. With so many controversial ingredients present in our food supply, as well as unhealthy amounts of added sugar and sodium levels, consumers need straight answers and unbiased information on developing the dietary habits that will help them live longer, healthier lives.

So just how should we be eating? While there are a plethora of opinions on different dietary habits, the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits always seems to find its way into the news through continuing research. Today we found a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece linking the Mediterranean diet to the preservation of memory and cognitive abilities.

The researchers collected data from the REGARDS study (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke). This study included data on over 30,000 people over 45 years of age between 2003 and 2007. Participants were followed up on regularly to record health changes. Among these participants, over 14,000 Caucasians and African-Americans who followed the Mediterranean diet were examined. The average age for this sub-group was 64. They were given tests to measure their memory and cognitive abilities over a period of four years. Seventeen percent of them had diabetes.

It was found that among those without diabetes who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely, the risk of memory problems and declining cognitive ability was lower by 19% in comparison to the rest of the population of the subgroup. In addition, the differences in declines among Caucasians and African-Americans was not statistically significant. The presence of diabetes seemed to hinder the effects of the Mediterranean diet as no benefit was realized amongst those participants who had the disease.

The researchers noted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better memory and cognitive functioning. The Mediterranean diet is rich in foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.

Prior studies have pointed out many other health benefits of the Mediterranean diet … some of which linked it to increased mental health, as well as brain health, as it appears to reduce damage to small blood vessels.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the dietary patterns traditionally found in Southern Italy, Greece and Spain. It includes the consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products, moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.

FoodFacts.com feels that the Mediterranean diet has shown so many potential benefits that it’s something to be seriously considered. This relatively simple style of eating is a fairly easy transition for most consumers who are already focused on the consumption of fresh, whole foods. Its benefits continue to unfold and we’re sure that this isn’t the last of the good news that we’ll hear regarding its advantages.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259793.php

New negative effects of BPA … this time on brain development

FoodFacts.com has been following studies on the effects of BPA on the population. We were relieved when it was banned from baby bottles and sippy cups. But it’s still out there, as it hasn’t yet been banned for usage in canned goods and does pose numerous possible dangers. And today, we found more disturbing information that we wanted to share with our community.

In a study from researchers at Duke University, results linked Bisphenol A (BPA) with more potential negative effects. It appears that the chemical may cause a disruption of an important gene responsible for the proper functioning of nerve cells. Based on the findings of this new study, it appears that BPA might impair the development of the central nervous system, leading to the possibility that exposure might predispose animals and humans to neurodevelopmental disorders.

The study was conducted with rodents. They discovered that the rodents exposed to BPA experienced the shut down of a gene necessary for the development of the central nervous system – the Kcc2 gene. The study is published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If the Kcc2 gene shots down, it cannot produce a protein that is essential to removing chloride from neurons. This is vital for the proper functioning of brain cells. Researchers noted that further research is needed to determine other genes that might be affected by BPA and that this is just a first step in much-needed determinations of how BPA affects brain development.

For the most part our exposure to BPA is through the containers used in packaging foods. Prior research has suggested that BPA is an endocrine disruptor. It affects the way hormones work and can lead to reproductive problems and developmental difficulties. In addition, BPA has been linked to a variety of different health conditions and diseases, among them are diabetes and obesity. BPA is known to mimic estrogen in the body. It was banned from baby bottles and sippy cups here in the U.S. Other food product categories, however, remain unaffected by the ban. France has recently instituted a ban that will require all food product containers to be BPA-free by 2015. And Japanese food manufacturers have voluntarily removed BPA from food product containers. Recent reviews of Japanese products have found no traces of the chemical in canned food and drink and BPA blood levels in the Japanese population have dropped dramatically.

FoodFacts.com is certain that as research into the negative effects of BPA continues, there will be further bans on the chemical worldwide, including here in the United States. While there have been claims in many countries that BPA concentrations in product packaging are low, there has never been any encouraging information regarding its health effects. Let’s all remain vigilant in our efforts to avoid the chemical and add our own voices to those already speaking out against the use of BPA.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/bpa-gene-regulation-brain-development_n_2776474.html?utm_hp_ref=health-news&ir=HealthNews

Omega-3 fatty acids and brain benefits

FoodFacts.com was happy to read new research information today regarding omega-3 fatty acids. It’s been known for a while that these essential fatty acids are important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But this new study shows other valuable and fascinating benefits.

There’s now evidence that increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can actually slow down the aging process. New research that focused on over one hundred obese, inactive adults were split into three groups. The first group was given a placebo, another was given a supplement containing 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. The other received a supplement with 1.25 grams of omega-3s.

The purpose behind the supplements was to study the effect of they would have on pieces of DNA called telomeres. Telomeres shorten with age and because of this play an important role in the aging process. These are what keep the strands of our DNA from unraveling and also help our cells to divide. When telomeres become too short, it can lead to cell inactivity or death. People over the age of 60 are actually three times more likely to die from heart disease if they haven shortened telomeres.

The results turned out to be quite revealing. It was found that the telomeres in the study participants who improved the ration of omega-3s to the other fatty acids in their diet actually improved the length of their telomeres. The group taking the placebo did not experience the same lengthening.

This is considered especially exciting as there have been previous studies focusing on mice that showed that lengthening their telomeres reversed their aging process. This new research with human participants does suggest a real possibility that omega-3 nutritional supplements could actually make a difference in the way people age. In the study involving mice who were given gene therapy their brain size which had shrunk by as much as 75% returned to normal.

FoodFacts.com is always encouraged to learn about positive health effects that come from natural sources. Anything science can provide us involving how dietary improvements can help us make dramatic changes in the health of our population is an exciting preview into the future.

Read more about this intriguing research:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/omega-3-supplements_n_1932903.html