The power of food as medicine is profound. I’ve written previously about the complexity of factors involved in brain health. Although the list can be quite long and confusing, one of the most powerful ways to preserve and support our cognitive function is found at the end of our forks.
For example, there is now research that shows that improving blood sugar by dietary measures could protect the brain and that diet quality modulates thought and mood. Furthermore, different nutrients such as healthy essential fats, vitamins, and minerals have all been shown to contribute to supporting mental processing. In the same blog mentioned above, I summarized several specific studies that support the importance of the quality of the diet for keeping our mental faculties.
Recently, there have been some headlines in the current research that highlights how certain nutrients and foods are powerful for brain health. Below is a brief summary of some of them.
A Multi-Nutrient Supplement Could Save the Aging Brain
A recent rodent study confirmed that a dietary supplement containing a blend of thirty vitamins and minerals exhibited anti-aging properties that could prevent and even reverse brain cell loss. The researchers believe that this mixture could be applicable in the future to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.
In this study, the little mice were bred to have widespread loss of over half of their brain cells. They munched on this mixture of nutrients on tiny bagel pieces fed to them by their caretakers. Science Daily reported:
Over time, researchers found that it completely eliminated the severe brain cell loss and abolished cognitive decline.
“The research suggests that there is tremendous potential with this supplement to help people who are suffering from some catastrophic neurological diseases,” says Lemon, who conducted the work with co-author Vadim Aksenov, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McMaster.
Interestingly, the rodents also exhibited improvement in vision and smell. In the abstract of the original article, the authors concluded, “We know of no other treatment with such efficacy, highlighting the potential for prevention or amelioration of human neuropathologies that are similarly associated with oxidative stress, inflammation and cellular dysfunction.”
Vitamins and Minerals for Potential Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury
This month, in Brain Research, researchers reviewed several nutraceutical therapies for brain injury in experimental models, “including vitamins (B2, B3, B6, B9, C, D, E), herbs and traditional medicines (ginseng, Gingko biloba), flavonoids, and other nutrients (magnesium, zinc, carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids).”
They concluded, “While there is still much work to be done, several of these have strong potential for clinical therapies, particularly with regard to polydrug regimens.”
Green Tea for Improving Cognition in Combination with Training for Down Syndrome
Down’s syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability. Science Daily reported on a recent study in which a compound in green tea combined with cognitive training produced better outcomes than cognitive training alone in young adults with Down Syndrome:
The work just published by the researchers in The Lancet Neurology presents the results of a clinical trial led by the Integrative Pharmacology and Systems Neuroscience Research group of Dr. Rafael de la Torre with 84 persons with Down’s syndrome aged 16 to 34 years. “The results suggest that individuals who received treatment with the green tea compound, together with the cognitive stimulation protocol, had better score in their cognitive capacities,” states Dr. de la Torre. However, studies in larger populations have still to be done.
The component in green tea, ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) was previously shown to inhibit the excess of the DYRK1A gene in mice, which is associated with many of the deficiencies of cognition and neuronal plasticity in Down’s syndrome.
Vitamin Deficiencies Common in Young Migraine Sufferers
According to Health Day:
Many young people who suffer from migraines have vitamin deficiencies, new research finds.
“Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation,” said lead study author Dr. Suzanne Hagler in a Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center news release. She is a headache medicine fellow in the hospital’s division of neurology.
The study included children, teens and young adult migraine patients who were treated at Cincinnati Children’s Headache Center.
A high percentage of them had mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 — a vitamin-like substance used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance, the researchers said.
As our population ages, many are concerned with their memory and maintaining cognitive function. Lifestyle measures and nutrition have been shown to modulate brain health, even improving mental function at the genetic level! Isn’t it nice to think that when you feed your body healthy, you could be nourishing your brain power as well?
Speaking of keeping our bodies healthy, I just wrote another blog on clove essential oil. Read all the benefits of this oil here.
Improving blood sugar control could help prevent dementia in patients with type 2 diabetes, study suggests. ScienceDaily. 14 September 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150914224312.htm.
Barnes JN, Joyner MJ. Sugar highs and lows: the impact of diet on cognitive function. The Journal of Physiology. 2012;590(Pt 12):2831. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2012.234328.
Harvard Health Publications. Blood sugar on the brain. April 1, 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/blood-sugar-on-the-brain
Deans E, Ramsey D. Medscape Psychiatry: Commentary-How Diet Influences Mental Health: New Findings, New Advances. Medscape. UPI. February 11, 2016. http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/02/15/Heartburn-medications-associated-with-higher-dementia-risk/8821455567164/
Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T. N., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sergentanis, I. N., Kosti, R. and Scarmeas, N. Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Ann Neurol. 2013; 74: 580-591. doi: 10.1002/ana.23944
Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews Neuroscience.