Tag Archives: omega 3 fatty acids

5 foods that make us smarter

From Refreshing News, Dec. 6, 2012:

1. Oily fish

oily fish

If you struggle to remember what day it is or what you had for dinner an hour ago, consider stocking up on the ultimate brain food, oily fish. Omega-3 fatty acids – found in oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines – are invaluable for just about every part of our body, and it seems our brains are no different. Researchers from the University of Kuopio in Finland found that eating oily fish three times a week reduces the risk of brain problems by 26% and prevents against memory loss.

2. Leafy greens

greens

Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are essential to keep your body and brain in good health. They are also a good source of folate, which can help to speed up information processing and memory recall. Research results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also indicated that the folate found in leafy green vegetables can help to protect against cognitive decline in old age.

3. Eggs

scrambled-eggs

Egg yolks are nutritional powerhouses packed with many vitamins and minerals essential for good brain function. This cheap and versatile ingredient is a good source of iron, which is essential for creating red blood cells which carry oxygen to the brain, helping to keep your mental faculties sharp and to keep you alert and focused. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin B12 – a deficiency of which can lead to memory loss and confusion – and iodine, which has been shown to improve problem-solving abilities even in only mildly deficient children.

4. Green tea

green tea

As your brain is made up of around 80% water, keeping it properly hydrated is vital for helping it to function at optimum levels. However, if you’re not a fan of regular water, swapping it for a cup of green tea could have added benefits for your brain. A Korean study has found that green tea can help to increase mental alertness and enhance your memory. Researchers have also found that the antioxidants found in green tea can help to protect the brain and reduce risk of dementia.

5. Chocolate

chocolate

No, it’s not just wishful thinking – chocolate really is good for you! While chomping on bars of milk chocolate is unlikely to improve your IQ score, dark chocolate is rich in brain-boosting chemicals, called flavonoids, which can enhance your cognitive skills. Research has found that flavonoids induce the creation of new neurons in the brain and also improve their ability to form new memories. Studies also show that flavonoids improve blood flow to the brain. One study of adult women found that when given flavonoid-rich chocolate drinks, the blood flow to participants’ brains increased within two hours and they performed better on a complex mental task.

brainfood

I actually love salmon, broccoli, green tea, eggs, and chocolate! Heavenly….

~Eowyn

Junk food shrinks your brain!

We already know that trans fats are bad for our hearts because they increase inflammation, make arteries harder and decrease heart rhythm, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest.

But a new study finds people with diets high in trans fats are also more likely to experience the kind of brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s disease!

Trans fat is the common name for a type of unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid. Unsaturated fat is a fat molecule containing one or more double bonds between the carbon atoms. Since the carbons are double-bonded to each other, there are fewer bonds connected to hydrogen, so there are fewer hydrogen atoms, hence the name, “unsaturated”.

Trans fats are rare in living nature: they are found naturally, in small amounts, in dairy products, beef and lamb. By far the largest amount of trans fat consumed today is created by the processed food industry as a side effect of partially hydrogenating (introducing hydrogen) unsaturated plant fats (generally vegetable oils). These partially hydrogenated fats have displaced natural solid fats and liquid oils in many areas, the most notable ones being in the fast food, snack food, fried food, and baked goods industries. They can only be made by cooking with a very high heat, at temperatures impossible in a household kitchen.

Partially hydrogenated oils have been used in food for many reasons. Partial hydrogenation increases product shelf life and decreases refrigeration requirements. Many baked foods require semi-solid fats to suspend solids at room temperature; partially hydrogenated oils have the right consistency to replace animal fats such as butter and lard at lower cost. They are also an inexpensive alternative to other semi-solid oils such as palm oil.

The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart diseaseby raising levels of LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.In 1994, it was estimated that trans fats caused 20,000 deaths annually in the US from heart disease. Health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts.

Now we have another reason to avoid trans fats.

Sharon Kirkey reports for Post Media News, December 29, 2011, that researchers have found that eating too much fast food — and therefore trans fats — is associated with brain shrinkage, similar to the brain shrinkage found in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In 1989, the Oregon Brain Aging Study was launched, involving 104 people aged 65 and older. All were generally healthy elders, with few smokers or people with diabetes or high blood cholesterol.

Only a handful of studies have looked at the relationship between trans fats and brain function. The purpose of the Oregon research was “to study the effects of age on dementia risk in people that don’t have factors known to increase their risk at the time,” according to lead investigator Dr. Gene Bowman, a naturopathic doctor in the department of neurology at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

Researchers checked the participants’ blood samples for markers of 30 different nutrients. Participants also did a raft of neuropsychological tests, and 42 had MRI scans of their brains as well. The team was interested in three things: cognitive function, total brain volume and white matter changes thought to be a sign of small vessel disease of the brain. (Small vessel disease, also known as cerebral small vessel disease, is an accumulation of plaque deposits in the small blood vessels throughout the brain. It can lead to stroke.)

Among the study’s key findings:

  • People who had high levels of circulating trans fats had less brain volume. They also had poorer memory, attention, language and processing speed skills;
  • People who had low levels of B vitamins, the antioxidants C and E, and vitamin D had less total brain tissue. Those who high levels of vitamins B-C-E-D had greater total brain volume and better global cognitive function.
  • People with higher levels of omega three fatty acids had better executive function — the ability to plan, problem solve, multi-task and perform other functions – as well as fewer white matter lesions on their brain scans.

The findings held after researchers took age, sex, education, hypertension and genetic and other factors into account.

Dr. Bowman said that the evidence suggests that trans fats can replace good fats in cell membranes, “and when that occurs it changes the structure and chemical properties of the cell in an unfavorable way. Trans fats are known to be bad for cardiovascular health. It makes sense that they’re probably bad for the brain, too.”

Bowman recommends avoiding processed foods that list “partially hydrogenated oils” on the ingredient list. “That’s trans fat.”

~Eowyn