Posts Tagged ‘diet’

Why are some people sharp as a tack at 95 years old, while others begin struggling with mental clarity in their 50s?

A lot of it has to do with genetics, but certain lifestyle factors also play an important role in how our brain ages. So while you can’t control your genes, you can take advantage of the latest science and avoid these seven big brain mistakes:

Mistake No. 1: Eating a standard American diet

Foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats and processed foods — i.e., the typical American diet — can wreak havoc on your brain over time. Studies have shown that excess sugar consumption can impair learning and memory, and increase your vulnerability to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Some scientists have even referred to Alzheimer’s as “Type 3 Diabetes,” suggesting that diet may have some role in an individual’s risk for developing the disease.

A Mediterranean-based diet, on the other hand, can help protect the brain from signs of aging and ward off cognitive decline. A recent study showed that following this type of diet — which is a good source of brain-healthy nutrients and includes a lot of fish, healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables — could slash Alzheimer’s risk by up to 50 percent.

Mistake No. 2: Living next to a highway

Living in a smoggy city might be bad news for your brain. According to research published this month in the journal Stroke, exposure to air pollution is linked with premature aging of the brain.

The researchers found that people who lived closer to a major highway had greater markers of pollution in their lungs and blood, which increased their risk for a form of brain damage known as “silent strokes,” or symptomless strokes. Increased pollution volume was also linked to decreased brain volume — a major sign of aging.

Mistake No. 3: Drinking a few evening cocktails

Don Draper’s daily cigarettes and two-martini lunches might seem glamorous on “Mad Men,” but research suggests that they’re a fast track to neurodegeneration.

It should come as no surprise that excessive drinking and cigarette smoking at any stage of life can have a negative effect on the brain, damaging brain tissue and leading to cognitive impairment. Alcoholism can cause or accelerate aging of the brain.

But just a couple of glasses of wine a night could pose a risk to brain health, even though there are some cardiovascular benefits. A 2012 Rutgers University study found that moderate to binge drinking — drinking relatively lightly during the week and then more on the weekends — can decrease adult brain cell production by 40 percent.

“In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory,” one of the study’s authors, Rutgers neuroscience graduate student Megan Anderson, said in a statement.

Mistake No. 4: Giving in to stress

Living a stressful lifestyle may be the worst thing you can do for your health as you age. Chronic stress is known to shorten the length of telomeres, the sequences at the end of DNA strands that help determine how fast (or slow) the cells in our body age. By shortening telomeres, stress can accelerate the onset of age-related health problems.

What about the brain? Well, some research has suggested that high levels of stress hormones can increase an individual’s risk for age-related brain damage.

“Over the course of a lifetime, the effects of chronic stress can accumulate and become a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease,” Howard Fillit, a clinical professor of geriatric medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, wrote in Psychology Today. “Several studies have shown that stress, and particularly one’s individual way of reacting to stress (the propensity to become ‘dis-stressed’ often found in neurotic people for example), increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”

If you’re feeling stressed out, try picking up a meditation practice. Research has shown that meditation is effective in lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and protecting the brain from aging.

Mistake No. 5: Getting by on less sleep than you need

There are a number of scary health effects associated with sleep deprivation, from a higher risk of stroke and diabetes to impaired cognitive functioning. Over the years, losing shut-eye can also accelerate brain aging. In a study conducted last year, researchers from Singapore found that the less that older adults slept, the faster their brains aged.

The study’s lead author explained in a statement that among older adults, “sleeping less will increase the rate their brain ages and speed up the decline in their cognitive functions.”

Mistake No. 6: Sitting all day

It’s a well-established fact that sitting for long periods is terrible for your health. A growing body of research has linked a sedentary lifestyle with health risks including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and early death, even among people who get the recommended daily amount of exercise.

And it turns out that sitting is also pretty bad for your brain. Research has linked physical inactivity with cognitive decline. Moreover, weight gain in older adults — which may result from too much sitting — has been linked with shrinkage in brain areas associated with memory.

So when in doubt, move around. Physical activity has been linked with a number of brain health benefits, including improved learning and memory.

Mistake No. 7: Zoning out

Use it or lose it! If you want to keep your brain sharp, keep it engaged. It doesn’t have to be a challenging intellectual task or a brain-training game, either — simply engaging in everyday activities like reading, cooking or having a conversation (as opposed to vegging out in front of the TV or computer) can make a difference.

But mental exercises like crossword puzzles and sudoku can help, too. A 2013 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that brain exercises are more effective than drugs in preventing cognitive decline.

The bottom line? Doing new and novel things promotes neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons in the brain. So get outside, learn, discover and try something new to keep your brain sharp through the decades.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/30/brain-aging-risk-factors_n_7169912.html

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Dr. Justin Grobe, PhD


Dr. Michael Lutter, MD PhD

In a study that seems to defy conventional dietary wisdom, University of Iowa scientists have found that adding high salt to a high-fat diet actually prevents weight gain in mice.

As exciting as this may sound to fast food lovers, the researchers caution that very high levels of dietary salt are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease in humans. Rather than suggest that a high salt diet is suddenly a good thing, the researchers say these findings really point to the profound effect non-caloric dietary nutrients can have on energy balance and weight gain.

“People focus on how much fat or sugar is in the food they eat, but [in our experiments] something that has nothing to do with caloric content – sodium – has an even bigger effect on weight gain,” say Justin Grobe, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology at the UI Carver College of Medicine and co-senior author of the study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports on June 11.

The UI team started the study with the hypothesis that fat and salt, both being tasty to humans, would act together to increase food consumption and promote weight gain. They tested the idea by feeding groups of mice different diets: normal chow or high-fat chow with varying levels of salt (0.25 to 4 percent). To their surprise, the mice on the high-fat diet with the lowest salt gained the most weight, about 15 grams over 16 weeks, while animals on the high-fat, highest salt diet had low weight gain that was similar to the chow-fed mice, about 5 grams.

“We found out that our ‘french fry’ hypothesis was perfectly wrong,” says Grobe, who also is a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the UI and a Fellow of the American Heart Association. “The findings also suggest that public health efforts to continue lowering sodium intake may have unexpected and unintended consequences.”

To investigate why the high salt prevented weight gain, the researchers examined four key factors that influence energy balance in animals. On the energy input side, they ruled out changes in feeding behavior – all the mice ate the same amount of calories regardless of the salt content in their diet. On the energy output side, there was no difference in resting metabolism or physical activity between the mice on different diets. In contrast, varying levels of salt had a significant effect on digestive efficiency – the amount of fat from the diet that is absorbed by the body.

“Our study shows that not all calories are created equal,” says Michael Lutter, MD, PhD, co-senior study author and UI assistant professor of psychiatry. “Our findings, in conjunction with other studies, are showing that there is a wide range of dietary efficiency, or absorption of calories, in the populations, and that may contribute to resistance or sensitivity to weight gain.”

“This suppression of weight gain with increased sodium was due entirely to a reduced efficiency of the digestive tract to extract calories from the food that was consumed,” explains Grobe.

It’s possible that this finding explains the well-known digestive ill effects of certain fast foods that are high in both fat and salt, he adds.

Through his research on hypertension, Grobe knew that salt levels affect the activity of an enzyme called renin, which is a component in the renin- angiotensin system, a hormone system commonly targeted clinically to treat various cardiovascular diseases. The new study shows that angiotensin mediates the control of digestive efficiency by dietary sodium.

The clinical usefulness of reducing digestive efficiency for treating obesity has been proven by the drug orlistat, which is sold over-the-counter as Alli. The discovery that modulating the renin-angiotensin system also reduces digestive efficiency may lead to the developments of new anti-obesity treatments.

Lutter, who also is an eating disorders specialist with UI Health Care, notes that another big implication of the findings is that we are just starting to understand complex interactions between nutrients and how they affect calorie absorption, and it is important for scientists investigating the health effects of diet to analyze diets that are more complex than those currently used in animal experiments and more accurately reflect normal eating behavior.

“Most importantly, these findings support continued and nuanced discussions of public policies regarding dietary nutrient recommendations,” Grobe adds.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-06/uoih-hsp061115.php