IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN POWER (AND PREVENT DEMENTIA) THROUGH DIET

brain

   In a previous post, I have referred to the importance of exercise in protecting mental function (http://www.mortontavel.com/2016/01/07). Now we focus on dietary constituents that also contribute to preserving brain function. Again, however, do not be seduced by the so-called dietary “supplements” that blatantly and falsely promise to improve mental function and memory—either immediately or over the long run. None of these products have been backed up by creditable scientific proof and are a waste of money.

The so called “MIND” diet, however, is backed up by sound science and is a hybrid of the heart-healthy Mediterranean and the blood-pressure-lowering DASH diet (http://www.mortontavel.com/2013/05/02/). (MIND actually stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). Not surprisingly, it limits red meat, butter and stick margarine, pastries and sweets, fried and fast food, and cheese. But we all know that while these foods should be avoided, what should we be consuming in their stead?

After a research team from RUSH University followed the diets of almost 1,000 elderly adults for an average period of over 7 years, they found that, in comparison to elderly individuals deviating completely from the MIND diet, those whose foods were most strongly in line with it had brains that functioned as if they were over 7 years younger. A follow-up study also showed that those following this diet also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half, and even those who only partially followed this plan still had a 35% lower risk. Truly amazing! So, below we list food types you should seek.

VEGETABLES AND LEAFY GREENS

Eat at least one cup raw or one-half cup cooked greens and one-half cup of other cooked vegetables per day. All types of lettuce and greens seem to count, but darker greens such as collards, kale, and spinach, possess more nutrients. We’re not quite certain of why these greens help, but possibly through their high levels of vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene and lutein.

NUTS 

    Eat at least five one oz. servings per week. Although all nuts seem to be beneficial, Brazil nuts contain copious amounts of selenium, believed to be especially beneficial for better verbal abilities and spatial skills. One nut supplies all the selenium you need in a day.

 

BERRIES

     Eat at least one cup twice weekly. This should include either blueberries or strawberries. Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh, and can cost half as much.

BEANS

Eat at least one-half cup cooked beans, four times weekly. This can include black beans, kidney beans, lentils, white beans, and others, all of which provide a healthy dose of folate, a B vitamin that may be instrumental in preventing dementia later in life. Canned beans are fine, but rinse them before using to remove some of the sodium.

FISH/POULTRY

    Eat at least three oz. of fish and six oz. of poultry per week (not fried). In comparison with red meat, both are low in undesirable saturated fat. Moreover, the omega 3 fats in fish may improve learning and memory by increasing the brain’s ability to send and receive messages. One study showed that older adults without dementia who ate 3 to 5 oz. of fish weekly for one year experienced less brain shrinkage, a common occurrence with dementia. However, limit intake of the larger predatory fish that contain mercury; better options include haddock, sardines, tilapia, and wild salmon.

OLIVE OIL

     According to some research, the phenolic compounds in extra-virgin olive oil may help prevent toxic protein deposits that can lead to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This oil may also reduce inflammation and improve blood-vessel function, both of which can benefit the brain.

WHOLE GRAINS

Eat at least one-half cup cooked grains or a slice of whole-grain breads three times daily. Whole grains, like bulgur and quinoa, were associated with higher levels of brain function in one study that evaluated the diets of people over the age of 65.

WINE

This might be the best part, making it all worthwhile! But women may consume only one glass per day, and men, 2 glasses. But beware of consuming more than that, for, according to one study, those who consume more than double that amount are actually at an increased risk of developing dementia.

We hope this information will provide the reader with some “foods for thought”!

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UNDETECTED SUGAR MAY BE LURKING IN YOUR DIET BEYOND JUST SOFT DRINKS AND DONUTS

 sugar

   All research indicates that excess sugar in the diet is unhealthy, increasing one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. For instance, a recent study disclosed that people who got 17 to 21 percent of their calories from added sugars had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who kept their intake of sugar at or below 8%. Results of this type have prompted the American Heart Association to recommend that sugar intake be kept in this latter range, amounting to a daily intake in women of to more than 6 teaspoons (24 gms) daily, and in men, 9 teaspoons (36 gms).

But at this time, achieving these targets is challenging. For example a frozen stir-fry dinner can contain the same amount of sugar as 16 gummi bears (5 teaspoons). Or even whole-wheat bread can have almost a teaspoon of sugar per slice. As a matter of fact, food companies add sugar to almost three-quarters of all packaged products, including nutritious-sounding items such as instant oatmeal and peanut butter, or even into apparently “unsweetened” items such as tomato sauce and crackers.

Some Guidelines

 In general, the sugars found in dairy products and fruits such as sweet potatoes and beets come in small doses and are packaged with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals and they don’t affect one’s blood sugar greatly, and, when consumed in moderation, they are not of great concern.

The main challenge, however, is to try to avoid those unnecessary added sugars.  Usually nutrition facts on labels designate added and naturally occurring sugars together under “total sugars.”  But, unfortunately, the amount of undesirable added sugar is usually not clearly indicated. In the effort to ease this burden, the FDA has proposed that added sugars have their own line on food label, similar to the way total fat and saturated fat are listed separately. This should also include the percent contributing to the total daily limit. But until food labels change, we can make some suggestions: 1) Know the code words for sugar. Ingredients on the list that end in “ose”, i.e., fructose, maltose, and sucrose, are added sugars that should be minimized or avoided. Even healthier-sounding sugars such as brown rice syrup or honey aren’t any better than other types. 2) Scan the entire ingredients list. Since ingredients are usually listed in order of weight, the higher up a substance is, the more sugar it is likely to contain. But many manufacturers use more than one type of sugar in a product, allowing them to list them separately, leading to the false impression that a food possesses less sugar than it actually contains. 3) Compare nutrition labels.  Find the “plain” version of foods such as yogurt or oatmeal and compare the nutrition facts label against the same brand’s sweetened versions. The difference in the amount of sugar between the two products is almost always added sugar. So, instead of purchasing the “sweetened” version, opt for the plain version and, for sweetness, add fresh fruit.

For more information and a general lowdown on the best and worst natural sugars, the reader should consult the Consumer Reports website: ConsumerReports.org/naturalsugar2015.

 

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HONEY’S NATURAL AURA PUNCTURED!

honey   For all those who succumb to the fantasy that “natural” foods are safer and healthier than those that are synthetic, let’s look at honey, felt by many to be crowned with a “health halo.” Most people believe that products containing honey are healthier than their sweet counterpart, namely high fructose corn syrup or just plain sugar. These claims are based upon the vague notion that honey might have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or antibacterial properties. That’s why so many products bear the name, honey, in their titles. For instance, Kellogg’s, joining this bandwagon, renamed its Sugar Smacks cereal as “Honey Smacks.”
But let’s look at the facts: When the National Honey Board set out to substantiate honey’s healthy image by funding a clinical trial comparing it to sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, the results backfired—the metabolic effects of honey and those other mundane sweeteners emerged as essentially the same! The controlled study involved serial trials in which 55 volunteers underwent successive two week test periods, comparing honey to sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Testing numerous markers such as blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, inflammatory markers, body weight and blood pressure, they came up with no significant differences in any of these measures, meaning that honey possessed no superiority, or could we say that it was a “cereal bust”.
What does this mean for the individual? Although honey contains trace amounts of various phytochemicals derived from the beehive, the nectar it’s made from is basically sucrose, i.e. table sugar. The enzymes in the bees’ stomachs break down the sucrose into two simpler sugars, namely glucose and fructose, but when combined together, they are biologically identical to the original sucrose.
So don’t kid yourself, and try to limit all types of sugars, including honey. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended consuming no more than 10% of total calories from sugars, and that includes sugary soft drinks as well! Interestingly, honey is denser than granulated sugar, so one teaspoon contains 21 calories compared to 16 calories in a similar volume of sugar. By foregoing honey, you are not only enhancing your well-being, but the bees will take no offense!

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LOWERING CHOLESTEROL WITHOUT DRUGS

Cholesterol         According to the American Heart Association, 102.2 million Americans age 20 and older (almost 50 percent of American adults) have elevated blood cholesterol levels, a key risk factor for heart disease. Lifestyle changes such as improving diet, losing weight and increasing exercise are often effective. Various medications, such as the”statin” drugs and niacin, may be used to lower cholesterol, but various supplements may also be helpful as well, lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”), sometimes raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol”), and improving the LDL/HDL ratio. Some supplements may also reduce triglycerides, which pose additional, although lower, risks.
As I have indicated previously, dietary changes that are useful in controlling cholesterol levels are spelled out in the following posts:
.    http://www.mortontavel.com/2015/12/07/polyunsaturated-fats-support/
http://www.mortontavel.com/2013/05/02/high-blood-press
After changing one’s diet, however additional measures are often needed, which can be considered before resorting to drugs. Supplement ingredients that have been used to reduce cholesterol include sterols and sterol esters (produced in the normal refinement of vegetable oils, or alternatively as a byproduct of papermaking from the oil of pinewood pulp), stanols and stanol esters (substances closely related to sterols that are derived from the same sources), red yeast rice (a yeast grown on rice), garlic, fish oil, and soy protein. Soluble fiber such as oats in the diet as well as moderate intake of alcohol can also improve cholesterol levels. :
The evidence supporting the various cholesterol-lowering supplements varies. The best evidence is for sterols, stanols and their esters, soy protein and high dose-niacin (sold as a supplement as well as a prescription drug). These are sometimes associated with certain risks, which should be understood. ..
This review will be limited to the stanols and sterols, which constitute groups of agents that are inexpensive and possess a good safety profile. It should be noted, however, that while sterols and stanols can lower cholesterol and likely cardiovascular disease risk, no study thus far has shown a direct risk reduction by this means..

                 Phytosterols:
Scientific studies have shown that a dose of 800 mg or more of free sterols per day is required to produce effective reductions in cholesterol, usually around 10%. According to Consumer’s Lab, most of the supplements contain their claimed amounts of sterols other than Pure Encapsulations CholestePure, which. at the dose of one capsule, would provide only 450 mg of free sterols.
• Enzymatic Therapy Cholesterol Shield also includes pantethine, which may cause a modest decrease in total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. In addition, HDL will rise at a dose of 300 mg 3 to 4 times a day
• Source Naturals Cholesterol Rescue includes Sytrinol™ (300 mg per day) which, may also modestly lower cholesterol.
             Phytosterols at Lowest Cost
Comparing the cost to obtain an equivalent amount of free sterols (800 mg), the lowest cost is from Nature Made CholestOff, amounting to 33 cents, while the cost for the same amount of ingredient from other products ranges from about 40 to 60 cents. CholestOff Plus is also supported by a successful clinical trial.

List of Phytosterols: This following presents a compilation of effective products (capsule or tablet form): CholestaCare, Cholesterol Shield, CholestOff, CholestePure, Shaklee Cholesterol Reduction Complex CholestePure, and Source Naturals Cholesterol Rescue.

Butter-like spreads: Plasma total- and LDL-cholesterol concentrations are reduced by margarines enriched with free plant sterols. Results are effective at an intake of 1.5gm or more of plant sterols per day, but they have little apparent effect on HDL-cholesterol or triacylglyceride concentrations. One prime example of this group is Benecol, which is provided in the form of a spread, but it is also produced in a yogurt drink, cream cheese spread, and Dobrogea Benecol Rye Bread. Another spread that has between 0.85 to 1.3 grams of sterol esters per serving is Smart Balance HeartRite Light. Just 2-4 servings of this spread per day also can fulfill your daily recommended dose of phytosterols. In order to consume enough amounts of these spreads, try adding them to such foods as steamed broccoli and oatmeal.

Conclusion: Whether you have cardiovascular disease or are presently normal, consider including the strategies above in your diet, especially make use of the spreads on your bread or in your cooking.

 

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