The Brain and Kale Connection

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Studies show that incorporating leafier green vegetables into one’s diet can help slow down cognitive decline especially among people in their advanced age. In a study conducted by the researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) and Rush University, they found out that those who consume 1 ½ servings of green leafy vegetables daily had the cognitive skills of people who are eleven years younger than those people who ate little to no leafy vegetables.

Dementia as A Global Crisis

The finding of this study is very significant considering that there is an increasing number of people in the United States who have dementia. In fact, the number of patients who have dementia is expected to rise to 15 million by 2050. However, it is not only in the United States that dementia is a big problem. Many seniors in Europe and Asia also have dementia. The rising number of patients who have dementia makes us wonder if there is a link between the disease and the type of diet we consume.

The study involved 960 adults between the ages 58 and 99. The participants took annual tests to assess different aspects of their brain function such as memory and learning. The researchers also looked into the amount of green leafy vegetables consumed by the participants.

What’s Inside Green Leafy Vegetables?

Published in the journal Neurology, the study concluded that better brain health was obtained by meeting dietary recommendations. Senior author of the study Sarah Booth noted that incorporating green leafy vegetables in one’s diet can have a lot of benefits, especially on the brain function. The reason why green leafy vegetables are so beneficial to brain function is that they contain significant amounts of vitamin K, folate, and lutein which slow down cognitive decline. Researchers suggest consuming all kinds of green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, watercress, and other locally sourced leafy greens.

Mechanisms Yet to Be Understood About The Brain and Kale Connection

While the study has very significant results about brain health and its protection, the publication opened and raised many questions about how the leafy greens mainly protect the brain. Unfortunately, the mechanism on how the brain is protected is still not fully understood. Sarah Booth noted that additional studies are underway involving studying different brain sections of deceased participants who agreed to donate their brain and other tissues for further studies.  This may well allow the researchers to unlock the mystery behind the brain and kale connection.

While the exact mechanism on how the eating leafy greens help protect the brain is yet to be understood, the message is quite apparent and that eating leafy green vegetables is useful not only for your body but even your mind especially when you get older. To date, the dietary recommendation states that eating at least one to 2 servings (or equivalent to two cups) of vegetables can do wonders for the brain, but you can always eat more. In any case, there is no overdose when it comes to eating green leafy vegetables. Only benefits… no dangers.

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Plants Have More Protective Properties Against Alzheimer’s Than Pills

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Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most dreaded diseases that inflict the elderly. Conventional medicines are used to slow down the progression of the disease, but they do not prevent or reduce your likelihood of stopping this condition. While there is no cure for this particular disease yet, your likelihood of developing it can be reduced.

Dr. Neal Barnard, founding president of the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), noted that while popping pills can slow down the disease, they don’t prevent the onset of its occurrence. In his book “Power Foods for The Brain,” he discusses that certain foods can help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease.

Eat Plants to Protect Your Brain

There are many foods that you can eat for your brain but there are only a few that provides your brain with a shield. These plants with concentrations of certain vitamins including Vitamin E and B Vitamins (B6, B12, and folic acid). These vitamins help protect the brain from cognitive impairment when ingested especially together with a plant-based diet.

While these vitamins are good for the brain, they can cause harm if taken in huge amounts. For instance, large doses of Vitamin E can increase the risk of heart disease while high amounts of folate increase the risk for cancer. The thing is, the body has evolved to procure micronutrients through the food that we eat. Consumption of high doses of vitamins is not natural for the body and can possibly cause more harm than good.

How to Get Vitamins Trough the Food You Eat

The best way to get micronutrients that are good for the brain is by eating the right kinds of food. But how do you get micronutrients from the food that you eat? It is important that you know that plants are one of the best ways to get the micronutrients that you need. For instance, you can get traces of Vitamin E from green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach. You can also get Vitamin E from mangoes, sweet potatoes, and avocados. Other sources include pine nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and pistachios. Although you only get 5mg of Vitamin E from these foods, you can reduce your risk by as much as 26%.

When it comes to Vitamin B6, you can consume whole greens, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, and bananas. Folate can be sourced from leafy greens, peas, citrus fruits, and cantaloupes. Now the challenge here is Vitamin B12 as it is made by bacteria found in dirt. It is also found in meat. To compensate, you can consume a 1000mg B12 supplement daily especially if you are not a meat eater.

Many people believe that Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease, but recent studies noted that it is a vascular disease as patients who suffer from this disease have clogged up arteries in the brain, which is a tell-tale sign of a vascular disease. Having said this, what is good for the heart should also be good for the brain and consumption of more plant-based foods is definitely good not only good for the hear but also for the brain.

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Brain Health Connected To What We Eat

There are many ways to keep the mind sharp. Exercise, sleep, meditation and of course a healthy diet. A healthy and nutritious diet supports the brain rather than stifles it. A diet that forces the body to expend energy for digestion after eating steals energy from the brain for thinking. Brain supportive foods include fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, fish, lean meats, and certain fats such as those in nuts that have been processed naturally. They are not acidic, and they promote alkalinity in the body. Sugar and carbohydrates tax the body and make it sluggish and acidic.

Scientific American has concluded that there is a large correlation between a healthy diet and our mood. Depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, lack of focus and dementia come with age as well as the ability to control mood diminishes. Scientific American believes that the best way to combat the mood changes is by choosing a brain healthy diet.

Our Diet is a Big Indicator of Brain Health

Scientific American has listed three classifications that help the brain remain healthy. They state that foods rich in Omega-3 such as fish oil and fish help fight depression. Pickles and other fermented food help combat anxiety while antioxidant foods like green tea and fruits help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, forgetfulness, and eventual dementia.

We lack these types of food in the western diet. The diet of the West consists of processed or frozen food with high amounts of sugar, preservatives, coloring, flavorings, and bad cholesterol. A new study found out that western diets, such as fast food diets shrunk the brain’s hippocampus as evidenced by MRI scans. The hippocampus is that part of the brain that is essential for memory and mood control.

In another study conducted at Rush University in Chicago, it was concluded that a combination of a Mediterranean diet with a high nutrient, low salt diet helped prevent hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease. The adults tested even had higher scores in cognitive abilities than people who were younger than them. This study was done on a thousand subjects.

We still have a lot to learn when it comes to determining the relationship between diet and brain health, but we know without a doubt that food is connected to our health.

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Fish Oil May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

A new study funded by Abbott Nutrition has suggested that consuming more omega-3 fatty acids may benefit people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease – omega-3 fatty acids are found in many types of fish oil and other plant-based nutrition sources. Researchers looked at 40 mentally healthy adults aged 65 to 75 in the study. All of them had APOE e4, the gene variant that is known to increase the risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s. The researchers had an interesting finding. Those who consumed higher amounts of two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA, had higher cognitive and mental flexibility. Though the results are not conclusive, they suggest that consuming EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids might improve mental flexibility by helping in increasing the size of the anterior cingulate cortex.

According to Aron Barbey, recent research suggests that there is a link between the degenerative neurological disorders and incidence of both cognitive impairment and nutritional deficiencies. Aron Barbey is the study co-leader and a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and hearing and speech science at the University of Illinois.

“Our findings add to the evidence that optimal nutrition helps reduce the incidence of debilitating diseases in healthy aging populations, slow the progression of aging, and preserve cognitive function.” – Aron Barbey

More Evidence Needed To Understand The Correlation Between Fish Oil and Alzheimer’s

The study was published online in the journal, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience on May 21. However, it does not show that consuming EPA and DHA can prevent Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia. The study co-leader and a medical/doctoral student, Marta Zamroziewicz, said in the news release that the survey focused on areas of brain function sometimes overlooked in research on aging. Zamroziewicz added that many executive functions including cognitive flexibility had been shown to be better predictors of daily functioning than memory while most of the past studies in cognitive aging tend to focus on memory. Executive functions refer to skills such as impulse control, task switching, reasoning, problem-solving, planning, and paying attention. These are functions that tend to decline earlier than other cognitive functions in aging. Other foods like fruits and vegetables fight Alzheimer’s but fish oil could be the best because of its omega-3 content.

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