Can what you eat really change your brain?

Column by Christina Sevilla

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By Christina Sevilla, Center Director and Owner of LearningRx- Denver and Centennial
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Nutrition always seems to get an extra spotlight the first few months of the year when everyone is making and trying to keep their resolutions. Usually people think about nutrition in relation to their weight, cardiac health, or overall well being, but more and more research is showing what we eat can change the neural pathways in our brain.

A study was recently published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation regarding scarring, yes actual scarring, on the hypothalamus in rats after eating a diet of fatty food. It contends that the fatty foods cause neural injury in cells that would normally help regulate weight gain and proper homeostasis. Long-term exposure to a high-fat diet caused permanent damage in areas of the brain. If future studies can find that humans are similar to rats, the research might help us to start to fix the problem and aid in obesity treatments. This particular research shows that a diet lower in fat does keep our brain healthier.

Fatty Foods to Limit:

• Beef with high fat content

• Sweetened condensed milk

• Chocolate cookies, candies

• Pies

• Ribs

• Fried Chicken, French Fries, Doughnuts, anything fried

• Cheesecake

• Cream Sauces

• Cheese Sauces

• Mayonnaise and mayonnaise based salads like potato salad

On the other end of the spectrum, a series of groundbreaking studies published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that consuming antioxidants can protect our memory and cognition, and actually reverse damage already done from aging. Rats fed a diet high in antioxidants like berries and spinach show less cognitive decline as they age. In one study, three sets of rats that would have been 63 years old in human years were fed different amounts of high-antioxidant compounds. Those fed blueberries did the best of the groups showing an actual reversal of cognition difficulties usually based on age.

“We suspected that the combined antioxidant potency of compounds in blueberry extract may have reduced inflammatory compounds in the brains of these older animals,” says Agricultural Research Service neuroscientist James Joseph. “Inflammation ordinarily contributes to neuronal and behavioral shortfalls during aging.”

It is thought that as the brain ages, the neurons have a harder time communicating with each other. The compounds found in antioxidants help to rebuild those communication systems. Below are several foods that are high in antioxidants that can help your brain.

• Berries

• Spinach

• Cinnamon

• Seeds

• Nuts

• Soybeans

• Lemons

• Grapefruit

• Whole grains

• Leafy green veggies

• Avocados

So as you are making that shopping list for the week, avoid the high-fat foods and remember to stock up on the great foods that are high in antioxidants. As you age, your brain will thank you!

Sources:

http://www.jci.org/articles/view/61562

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/06/study-high-fat-foods-cause-brain-scarring/?hpt=hp_t3

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug07/aging0807.htm

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