Brain atrophy is a normal part of the ageing process, but years of unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices may accelerate cognitive decline. Nearly 1 in 10 Australians aged 65 and over have dementia. It is highly likely that for many Australians, by the time we reach our 70s we will have developed at least some degree of cognitive impairment.
Whilst we cannot change our genes, we can ditch the processed foods, artificial trans fats and sugars. Improving social interaction and mental agility can also play an important role in maintaining our brain health. When it comes to choosing the right foods to help our brain, there are specific nutrients, foods and treatments that look particularly promising when it comes to boosting our mental alertness and brain health.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that plays an important role in brain health. DHA has the ability to turn on the brains “growth hormone” a protein called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, one of the key factors to brain health and disease protection. DHA helps neuron neuroplasticity or brain cell communication by helping the formation of new brain cells and protecting existing cells from damage and disease. Brain-derived neurotrophic factorplays a significant role in long term memory. DHA works as a powerful anti-inflammatory due to its ability to reduce the enzyme activity of COX-2 which is involved in the inflammatory process. Cox 2 inhibitors work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, fatty-acid derivatives which play a role in immune and inflammatory response effects. Inflammation is linked to many diseases including those of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Folate is crucial for healthy brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. Folate or Vitamin B9 works with vitamin B6 and B12 to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. High homocysteine levels have been shown to increase our risk of cardiovascular disease and also increases amyloid plaques in the brain, a contributing factor to cognitive decline and dementia. Folate is so important to our health that the synthetic version, Folic acid, it is often added to fortify processed foods such as flour and bread products. Low levels of folic acid can be caused by alcoholism, MTHFR genetic disorders, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease. Folate rich foods include legumes, asparagus, spinach, avocado, beetroot, vegemite, broccoli, Brussel sprouts.
Low B-12 levels can decline for a number of reasons such as age, poor nutrient absorption, medications, alcohol consumption and low animal product intake e.g. vegan or vegetarian diet. Studies show that those with lower B12 levels have structural anomalies in the region of the brain most associated with memory, the hippocampus. Increasing vitamin B12 via the diet such as eggs, milk, cheese, milk products, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry or via supplementation may help memory, particularly short term memory loss.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have become increasingly popular due to the recent interest in the ketogenic diet which consists of replacing net carbohydrates with high amounts of healthy fats and moderate amounts of high quality protein. As our brain ages, it becomes less efficient at using glucose as an energy source. This ineffective energy conversion starves the brain of energy and makes it more vulnerable to oxidative stress caused from free radicals. MCT oil is an excellent source of medium chain triglycerides and is basically coconut oil that has had the long chain fatty acids removed. As a general guide, the shorter the carbon chain, the more efficiently the MCT will be turned into ketones, which are an excellent source of energy for your body. This is thought to be (in keto communities) preferable to glucose, as ketones produce less harmful free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) when they are metabolized to produce ATP. MCT oil is thought to increase mental alertness and clarity and some clinical studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients who consumed a beverage with MCT oil compared to one without scored significantly better on cognitive tests.
NAD Intravenous vitamin infusions
NAD therapy has been around since the 60’s for helping with mental health and addictive behaviours yet it is a relatively new treatment for treating ageing and mental health here in Australia. In fact it is so new that there is only one clinic in Sydney that is currently offering the IV infusion treatment. A NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) infusion involves intravenous infusions of NAD, a vitamin B3 derivative. NAD works as a cofactor for many enzyme reactions and is involved in regulating our brain neurotransmitters. NAD also helps with cellular ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) energy production and is required as a cofactor to produce DNA repair enzymes which help to protect cell DNA from damage and disease. NAD therapy can be used as a brain booster treatment to treat brain disorders such as anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. The Ageless Clinic in Bondi Junction, Sydney currently offers NAD therapy with Dr Jeremy Cumpston.
Brain boosting foods - General foods to increase for brain health include berries, walnuts, oily fish, dark chocolate, beetroot, turmeric, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Brain Boosting Smoothie
½ Cup of frozen mixed berries
2 teaspoons of Infinity Vita – sol wholefood powder www.vita-sol.com
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or milk of your choice) (add more if you require a more liquid consistency)
½ frozen banana
1 tbsp. organic MCT oil
1 tablespoon of flaxseed
2 tbsp. of vanilla vegan protein powder (optional)
½ cup of ice
Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.