Protect your brain health with these 4 powerful nutrients
(NaturalHealth365) Perhaps you’ve heard people laughingly refer to “senior moments,” those temporary lapses of memory that can leave you searching for a word — or a lost set of car keys. Perhaps you’ve even had a few yourself. Is this a sign of poor brain health?
Unless they occur so frequently that they interfere with daily life, these little lapses are probably just a sign of a sign of normal age-related memory loss – and of the inevitable fact that your brain is getting smaller every year.
Loss of brain mass can threaten cognition, memory, mood – even life itself
Brain shrinkage, or loss of volume in the brain, is a normal part of aging. However, abnormally pronounced brain shrinkage puts you at risk for cognitive and movement disorders – and even stroke and early death. Research shows that people with smaller brain volumes have a 96 percent increase in their risk of stroke – as well as a 58 percent increase in risk of death from all causes.
Cardiovascular disease can be a major contributor to brain shrinkage. In one study, patients with coronary artery disease were found to have significantly smaller amounts of gray matter – with worse performances on cognitive tests. Diabetes, sleep disorders, stress and obesity can all accelerate brain shrinkage as well. And lifestyle factors, such as a toxic diet, a lack of physical activity, smoking and excessive drinking, can also speed the process.
Neuroscientists say brain shrinkage can be slowed significantly with lifestyle changes. In addition to following a healthy diet and getting active, you can protect your brain by supplementing with the following four nutrients.
Combine three different B-complex vitamins for brain health
B-complex vitamins help to regulate homocysteine, an amino acid associated with heart disease. High levels of homocysteine cause brain shrinkage and dementia – especially when the body is deficient in B vitamins. Doctors say it’s important for aging people to maintain optimal levels of B vitamins – and it’s especially vital with high homocysteine levels.
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Three of the B-complex vitamins – vitamin B-12, vitamin B-9, and vitamin B-6 – have been found to be especially helpful in retaining brain volume.
Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, is found in fish, meat and dairy. It is needed by the body to metabolize fatty acids, an important component of brain cells. People with B-12 deficiencies experience shrinkage at a rate that is 5 times faster than that of people with higher levels.
Vitamin B-9, also known as folate, occurs naturally in leafy vegetables, legumes, fruits, and organ meats such as beef liver. In one study, people with higher folate levels experienced slower rates of brain atrophy – as well as a longer period of time progressing from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown dementia.
Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, is important in the production of neurotransmitters, and in the absorption of vitamin B-12. It occurs naturally in meat, fish, dairy, lentils and brown rice.
In a controlled trial published in the scientific journal PLoS One in 2010, adults over 70 with mild cognitive impairment were given 800 mcgs of folate, 500 mcgs of vitamin B-12 and 20 mg of vitamin B-6 daily for two years, and experienced brain shrinkage at a rate of 30 percent slower than the control group. For participants with elevated homocysteine at the beginning of the study, results were even more dramatic — they slowed their brain shrinkage rate by 53 percent.
Are high-fat diets bad for the brain?
Healthy fats – such as the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils and nut oils – are a major part of brain cell membranes, and optimal levels can play a key role in protecting your brain. Higher levels of the omega-3 components known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are associated with larger brain volume.
When DHA and EPA levels drop, age-related cognitive deficits worsen. Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are both associated with abnormal distributions in the brain of fatty acids. People with Alzheimer’s disease also show low levels of fatty acids.
Omega-3s protect against over-excitation – a primary cause of age-related brain cell damage – while decreasing inflammation and protecting against damage from stress.
Pomegranate juice sharpens memory and improves cognition
Pomegranates are rich in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective plant-based compounds called polyphenols.
This flavorful juice can help reduce overall fat content in obese people, help to regulate blood sugar, and fight inflammation – “win/win” scenarios in the fight against brain shrinkage. And researchers have found that a mere 8 ounces of pomegranate juice a day can improve cognition and memory.
An animal study published in Neurobiology Discoveries showed that pomegranate juice helped mice with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease make their way through a maze much more quickly than mice in the control group.
Ingredient from grapes and berries may enlarge memory center
Resveratrol is a phenol found in red grapes, red wine, and darkly pigmented fruits such as blueberries. Animal studies showed that resveratrol increased volume in the hippocampus – the part of the brain associated with memory. It also helped protect against oxidative damage that leads to brain cell death, and reduced injury to brain endothelial cells in mice with high-fat diets.
In a 2014 study published in Journal of Neuroscience, adults who were overweight but otherwise healthy were given 200 mgs of resveratrol a day for 26 weeks. Researchers found that resveratrol improved connections between the hippocampus and frontal sections of the brain, and served to increase memory performance. They noted resveratrol’s potential as a novel strategy to maintain brain health during aging.
As baby boomers round the corner into advanced age, avoiding loss of brain volume becomes a must for optimal health. Never underestimate the power of good nutrition and lifestyle changes.
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