Brain Health Starts with Your Fork
Have you ever considered your brain health could be related to what you are putting on your fork? There is evidence suggesting Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases are highly influenced by diet, and are sometimes labeled Type 3 Diabetes (1). The mechanisms are elucidated in some research connecting diets high in sugar and processed food to inflammation which increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
In addition to sugar and processed foods, the type of animal protein we consume matters. Inexpensive, low-quality meats are likely to contain abnormal and misfolded proteins. They are also much lower in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and Omega fats. We want to limit our exposure to these because they may contribute to inflammation, and promote the formation of plaques and neuronal tangles in our brains leading to neurodegenerative diseases (2,3).
While there is so much in the environment that we can’t control, we do have dominion over what we are feeding our bodies and minds. Individuals with a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, daily exercise, moderate alcohol consumption and moderate weight during their mid-forties) have a significantly lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases (4).
A whole food diet containing healthy fruits, vegetables, grass-fed, organic meats and wild-caught seafood, keeps inflammation down and allows our body to work at its best. Other factors such as sleep, stress management, movement, and meaningful relationships also support the body AND lead to a healthy mindset.
We must begin by feeding our body healthy foods and healthy thoughts on a daily basis. The more high-quality foods we consume, the better the quality of our sleep, the more our body and brain can clear the debris out; this is a process called autophagy - the body’s clean-up function. In contrast, processed foods (e.g. breads, pastas, crackers, etc.) and sugar promote inflammation and disturbed sleep - increasing the body’s toxic burden and hampering this detoxification function each night while we sleep.
Certain common medications - such as proton-pump inhibitors, i.e. antacids - have been linked to Alzheimer’s (5). These and many other drugs are not benign, in contrast to what the companies that make them want us to believe.
The bottom line - the body is very delicate and it works hard to keep us functional under the lifestyle we are asking it to support. If we are continually feeding it low-quality food, skimping on sleep, lead a sedentary life and have a negative mindset - the body gets overwhelmed and can’t detoxify properly. Then, we are vulnerable to inflammation and a build-up of abnormal proteins - increasing the body burden and making us vulnerable to all sorts of disease.
Targeted supplements together with a whole food diet can keep our brain and bodies working optimally. Antioxidants such as Coq10, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are important. Magnesium theronate is particularly helpful for brain health because it can cross the blood brain barrier and help with that deep, restful sleep that is critical to our health.
Quercetin, a bioflavonoid from plants, has been recently reported to have neuroprotective effects against neurodegenerative processes seen in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (6,7). Foods high in quercetin include apples, citrus fruits, black cherries, blueberries, and blackberries.
Diets high in L-serine have been linked to reduced occurrences of Alzheimer’s (8). Nootropic supplements, such as Mucuna pruriens, have been shown to help regulate dopamine - a neurotransmitter which can be disrupted with Parkinson’s.
There are many supplements to choose from in the area of neurological health. Working with a practitioner can ensure you get the best ones for your individual body, genetics, and metabolism. Neurodegeneration - although common and on the rise - does not have to be in your future. Be mindful of how you fuel your body and mind to keep in optimal health.
Sarah Kelly DeVido, MSc, FNTP, is currently a Functional Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, having worked as a scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and as a scientific researcher at an Integrative Health and Nutrition Practice where she had the opportunity to collaborate and share research findings with some leading authorities in the field.
- Kandimalla R, Thirumala V, Reddy PH. Is Alzheimer's disease a Type 3 Diabetes? A critical appraisal. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2017 May;1863(5):1078-1089.
- Chiti F, Dobson CM. Protein misfolding, functional amyloid, and human disease. Annu Rev Biochem. 2006. 75:333-66.
- Murakami T, Ishiguro N, Higuchi K. Transmission of Systemic AA Amyloidosis in Animals. Vet Path. 2014. 51(2): 363-371.
- Popa-Wagner A, Dumitrascu DI, Capitanescu B, et al. Dietary habits, lifestyle factors and neurodegenerative diseases. Neural Regen Res. 2020;15(3):394-400.
- Fallahzadeh MK, Borhani Haghighi A, Namazi MR. Proton pump inhibitors: predisposers to Alzheimer disease? J Clin Pharm Ther. 2010 Apr;35(2):125-6.
- Ay M, Luo J, Langley M, Jin H, Anantharam V, Kanthasamy A, Kanthasamy AG. Molecular mechanisms underlying protective effects of quercetin against mitochondrial dysfunction and progressive dopaminergic neurodegeneration in cell culture and MitoPark transgenic mouse models of Parkinson's Disease. J Neurochem. 2017 Jun;141(5):766-782.
- Khan H, Ullah H, Aschner M, Cheang WS, Akkol EK. Neuroprotective Effects of Quercetin in Alzheimer's Disease. Biomolecules. 2019;10(1):59. Published 2019 Dec 30.
- Tetzeli, R. Could This Radical New Approach to Alzheimer’s Lead to a Breakthrough? Fortune. 2019 Jan 18
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