Saturday, January 14, 2012

Avoiding Dementia As We Age

A neurologist in Portland Oregon by the name of Gene Bowman has just published research that appears to identify a few nutrients that may be good for our brains and one constituent of many prepared food products  that is bad news for our brains.

He studied the brain health of dementia free elders. The mean age was 87 ± 10 years and 62% of subjects were female. He wanted to see if there was something in their diet that protected their brains. Rather than using the usual "food frequency questionnaire" he assayed nutrient plasma biomarkers. He felt the food questionnaires have room for errors when used alone. (I would agree.) The best way is to use the plasma markers and questionnaires together to get a reflection of diet and metabolism. His aim was to see  how various nutrients related to brain health.

He found that those with higher trans fats in their plasma had smaller brains and lower cognitive function. High trans fats in the diet is already associated with poor cardiovascular health.  This is just one more reason to stay away from trans fats. Most trans fats come from processing liquid vegetable oil into solid fats, which includes margarine. Look for the words partially hydrogenated fats on the labels.  (Much of the prepared foods in the grocery store - read the label).  

Here is a list of "foods" that often contain them.
  • margarine and vegetable shortening
  • cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns
  • cake mixes, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes
  • fried foods, including donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • snack foods, including chips, candy, and packaged or microwave popcorn
I would like to point out that trans fats are not found much in nature. However, the ones that are found in nature that have been studied appear to possibly be healthy rather than harmful such as conjugated linoleic acid. This is because natures process of making them and the synthetic process of manufacturing trans fats is different.  It is the synthetic trans fats found in a lot of prepared foods that are being shown to be harmful.When you see the words partially hydrogenated on a label, put the toxin back on the grocery shelf and eventually if no one is buying them manufacturers will stop making the disgusting stuff.

The subjects that had the most favorable cognitive and MRI measurements were the subjects with high plasma vitamins B(B1, B2, B6, folate, and B12) C, D and E as well as high omega-3 fatty acids. 

How can we get these nutrients in our bodies. Simply by eating real food. This is just one more reason to eat  lots of fish, pastured non pasteurized dairy and meat, healthy fats,  fruits, veggies, legumes, soaked, sprouted whole grains and nuts and sea vegetables (such as kelp). Keep your diet colorful and varied and eat lots of greens.  That is the take home and seems to always be the take home from this kind of research.

An abstract of this research can be found at this link 

See this past post for more brain info: 

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