Brain Dietary Nourishment
Food is the brain's primary chemical link to its environment
and to its evolution. Your diet affects the brain chemicals
that influence your mood and behavior, the thought processes
and emotional reactions.
The brain needs a daily dietary intake of quality food.
Fat and nutrient differences account for mental performance
differences. A diet with less fat, saturated fat, and
cholesterol, and more carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins
[ folate, vitamins C, E, and beta-carotenes], and minerals
[ magnesium potassium, and zinc] not only improves general
health but also improves cognitive function.
Age related illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
diseases are largely impacted by those nutrients shown
to prolong mental performance. The message is clear;
improve your nutrition and reduce your chances of developing
these debilitating diseases.
The food elements that have the most positive effect
on the brain are:
Most Americans are vitamin B deficient because we consume
too much alcohol, coffee, sugar and cigarettes; all
which deplete the body of vitamin B. Without enough
vitamin B in our diets, we are at an increased risk
for Alzheimer’s, as well as other frightening
diseases such as depression, Parkinson’s disease,
cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
play a critical role in brain function.
B-12 [cobalamin] - deficiency has been
implicated as a cause of vascular disease, which can
impact the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the brain.Recent
studies also find an important role for B-12 in cognition.
Veterans with subnormal B-12 blood levels experienced
deficits in cognitive performance. Vitamin B12 deficiency
is a notable cause of numbness, tingling, incoordination,
and impaired cognitive function.
- niacin deficiency presents as dementia, dermatitis,
and diarrhea. Folic acid is a coenzyme that helps
cells with the process of cell division and replication.
Low blood levels of folate correlated to an increased
likelihood of difficulties with short-term memory,
stroke, dementia and depression.
[Vitamin B-1] - a circulatory
enhancer and for maintaining muscle tone of the heart,
stomach and intestines. Recent studies implicate thiamine
in cognitive dysfunction. Alzheimer patients, not
deficient in B1, given oral supplementation of a thiamine
derivative had a mild beneficial effect on emotional
as well as intellectual functions. This is an important
clue for researchers investigating the biological
origins of Alzheimer's Disease. Thiamine deficiency
causes cognitive dysfunction and is fully expressed
in malnourished alcoholics as Wernicke's psychosis.
- Inositol - a B vitamin necessary
for fat and cholesterol metabolism and for fat mobilization
from the liver, shows therapeutic benefit in Alzheimer's
patients. Language and orientation skills were significantly
improved with therapeutic doses of inositol in Alzheimer's
Amino Acids [Protein Blocks]
Amino acids are the 'building blocks of protein; integral
in cellular functions. All cognitive processes rely
on neurotransmission (the communication of electrical
impulses through nerve cells), proper amino acid levels
are critical to mental performance.
Insufficient essential amino acids in the diet foreces
your body i to do without them. This may lead to the
onset of illness, enhance metabolic errors necessary
to reinforce cognitive health.
- Taurine - A significantly reduction
in the level of taurine in the part of the brain associated
with spatial learning performance was correlated to
reduced dopamine, implicated in both Alzheimer's and
Parkinson's Diseases. Taurine-deficient diets were
found to have depressed IGF-1 levels. Dietary supplementation
was able to correct "advanced aging [that] results
in a taurine-deficient state."
- Tryptophan - through its metabolic
conversion to melatonin, is an important brain amino
acid. Stress or a dietary deficiency of tryptophan
results in reduced availability of serotonin and melatonin.
We produce less melatonin with age, leading to biorhythm
irregularities associated with affective diseases,
sleep disorders, Alzheimer's Disease, and other diseases
- deficiency has also been linked to cognitive impairment.
3 month therapy trials found improvements in dementia
and memory, as well as in attention and verbal skills.
When given to Alzheimer's patients, acetyl-L-carnitine
exerted a protective action, stabilizing test scores
from mental assessments.
Most of your brain is made up of fats. The membranes
of brain neurons are composed of a thin double-layer
of fatty acid molecules. Myelin, the protective sheath
that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30%
protein and 70% fat. One of the most common fatty acids
in myelin is oleic acid. Oleic acid is abundant in human
milk, olive oil and the oils from almonds, pecans, macadamias,
peanuts, and avocados.
Your brain cells require very specialized fats. These
are manufactured from two essential fatty acids (EFAs)
in the diet:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) an
fatty acids. Food sources of omega-3 ALA include flax
seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, sea vegetables, and green
- Linoleic acid (LA). LA an "omega-6"
fatty acid. Food sources of omega-6 LA include expeller
cold-pressed sunflower, safflower, corn, and sesame
From ALA and LA, your brain manufactures DHA [docosahexaenoic
acid] and AA [arachidonic acid]; the longer chained
fatty acids that are incorporated in its cell membranes.
DHA declines with age, resulting in less protection
against oxidative damage, resulting in cognitive impairment.
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's both appear to be associated
with membrane loss of fatty acids. Thus an optimal diet
of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may help to delay
their onset of these diseases.
It is important that these two fatty acids are in balance;
a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Western diets, however,
tend to have an unhealthy ratio of 20:1 This imbalance
may be linked to hyperactivity, depression, brain allergies,
This imbalance can be corrected by completely avoiding
trans fatty acids found in partially-hydrogenated oils,
margarine, and shortening and eating less sugar. Only
eat "cold-pressed" oils and fats or "extra
virgin”; Olive oil, and boost consumption of omega-3-rich
fish and flax seed oil. Trans fatty acids replace the
natural DHA in the membrane, which affects the electrical
activity of the neuron. This disrupts communication,
triggering cellular degeneration and diminished mental
Good dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are high-fat,
cold water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and
trout. That’s why fish are called brain food.
To boost your supply of Omega-6 fatty acids, look for
foods and supplements that include evening primrose,
borage, and black currant seed oils. Of course meat,
eggs, and dairy are also good in moderation.
Healthy monounsaturated fats are found also in avocados,
peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, chicken, beef, turkey,
eggs, mackerel, and herrings, as well as in sesame,
palm, corn, sunflower, and soybean oils.
As we age there is an increasing demand for unsaturated
Phospholipids are a group of molecules found in abundance
in the membranes of nerve cells, red blood cells, and
cellular powerplants [mitochondria]. Phospholipids are
a necessary fatty compound. Their presence maintains
an elasticity and permeability of cell membranes that
permits the continual flow of nutrients and oxygen.
Without phospholipids, cell membranes would harden and
cells would starve and die. A decrease in the major
phospholipids is age-dependent. This decline could be
corrected through a diet including polyunsaturated fatty
acids [PUFA's], resulting with improvements in neurotransmission.
Phosphatidylserine [PS[ is implicated in brain aging.
As we age, levels of acetylcholine, critical to the
ability of neurons to communicate, decline.
Botanical agents lack complete acceptance as a reputable
therapy, due to lack of clinical studies. However a
few that have been recognised are:
- Ginkgo biloba extract - recognized
for its ability to protect cell membranes from free
radical damage, and for improvements in short-term
memory. Proven beneficial in patients with Parkinson's
Disease, for reducing the prominence of theta waves,
the wave of sleep and unconsciousness.
- active ingredient, ginsenoside, is
suspected to facilitate learning and memory by promoting
an increase in the number of synapses formed in the
hippocampal region. This region is highly susceptible
to both aging and stress. Ginseng's nootropic abilities
include enhancement of immune function, motor skills,
and promotion of neuronal function.
Most foods contain some vitamins and minerals, but
micronutrients are especially abundant in fruits and
vegetables. To ensure a plentiful supply of these antioxidants,
include at least the recommended five servings of fruits
and vegetables every day. [10 servings for anti-aging
A serving is generally a small fruit or half a cup
of cubed fruit; a cup of raw green leafy vegetables
or half a cup of cooked greens; a half cup of other
cooked or raw vegetables. These fruits and vegetables
should be of wide variety and color – preferably
in season, organic, and locally grown.
The key mineral ions in the brain are sodium, potassium,
calcium and magnesium. These must be maintained in critical
- Low calcium levels produce, painful muscle contractions
with dizziness, confusion, and even seizures. Hyperventilation
causes a sudden drop in blood calcium levels that
can reduce brain irritation and block seizures during
alcohol withdrawal and toxemia during pregnancy.
- Extra calcium and magnesium tend to have a calming
effect and are safe to take in supplemental form.
- Potassium intake is often deficient and increased
potassium intake is desirable.
- Sugars and sodium salts are used in moderation.
Your brain is about 80 percent water, so it is logical
you need adequate water to hydrate the brain. Even slight
dehydration can raise stress hormones; and damage the
brain over time. Green tea and ginseng tea are also
good for brain function as they contain chemicals that
enhance mental relaxation and alertness.
supply of water is free of contaminants.
Balance Protein, EFA's and Carbohydrates
Unbalanced diet fads, like the Atkins diet are not
a healthy long term way to eat for your body or your
brain. More balanced diets, such as The Zone, Sugarbusters,
the South Beach Diet, and Powerful Foods for Powerful
Minds and Bodies provide a balanced nutrition for both
body and brain.
Balancing proteins, good fats, and good carbohydrates
is essential. Having protein at each meal helps to balance
blood sugar levels; and prevents the brain fog that
accompanies just eating simple carbohydrates. At each
meal or snack, try to get a balance of protein, high
fiber carbohydrates, and fat.
Simple suggestions include:
- Fibre to boost congnitive functioning.
- Eggs - rich in choline, to produce the neurotransmitter
- Salad - full of antioxidants helping to control
damaging free radicals.
- Yogurt - contains the amino acid tyrosine, needed
for the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine
- Strawberries and blueberries - improve coordination,
concentration and short-term memory.
In summary, the adverse brain effects of nutrient deficiencies,
the toxic effect of molecules derived from food, and
the immunogenic potential of food proteins and peptides
are largely under-recognized. There are many clues that
link our diets to neurological diseases. Any symptom
of brain-dysfunction should immediately trigger a thorough
revision of the diet.
Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment,
learning, and motivation, support is often required
in doing so.