We are what we eat – brain boosting foods
There’s mounting evidence that what we eat plays a crucial role in brain health. The MIND diet, which combines a Mediterranean style eating plan with a diet designed to reduce high blood pressure, has been shown to slow cognitive decline in stroke survivors and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The MIND diet includes 10 brain healthy foods, which include berries, nuts, vegetables, olive oil and fish and 5 unhealthy groups – red meat, cheese pastries sweets and fried food. Sticking to the MIND diet means eating at least 3 servings of whole grains, a leafy green vegetable and another vegetable every day along with a glass of wine. People snack on nuts, have beans or pulses every other day, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week. Unhealthy foods are limited rather than banned; only 1 and a half teaspoons of butter per day is allowed, less than one serving per week of cheese and fried food and fewer than five servings per week of sweets and pastries. A five-year study by Chicago’s Rush University found that seniors who followed the diet for five years reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by as much as 53% when followed rigorously, but it still had a protective effect even if participants didn’t follow it to the letter, reducing risk by as much as 35%.
Researchers in Australia are now looking at complementary medicine and supplements to test whether they offer protection for brain health. A team at The National Institute of Complementary Medicine at the University or Western Australia in Sydney are starting a clinical trial, approved by Australian health authorities to test SLT. This is a herbal medicine formed of a compound of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and Crocus sativus, and is designed to enhance cognitive and cardiovascular function. The study is looking at Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) in people over 60, which is a noticeable but slight decline in memory and thinking abilities. MCI affects up to 20% of people in their 60s and one in 3 in their 70s and can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists now know that the brain continues to produce new neurons in the memory centre throughout life, it doesn’t decline as we age. What seems to change is the blood flow to the vessels serving the hippocampus. Regular exercise and eating a diet designed to promote good blood flow seem to be common sense for general health, turns out they’re good for memory function too.