Do you eat for brain health? Most people eat to satisfy hunger, get energy or for the pure pleasure. Not bad reasons, after all eating is one of the most enjoyable pastimes as humans we get to partake in.
But what are the results of our diets on our cognitive processes and long term brain purpose? It’s a safe bet that unless you’re in a specialized medical field you don’t equate what you have for lunch with fluidity of brain function.
We cater to our appetites more than the future health of our brains, and never is it more evident than in the growing numbers of Alzheimer and dementia cases worldwide.
Food has been commercialized, marketed and sold to the consumer as a designer commodity. Among the most prestigious is the low-fat diet. Fat in our foods has been equated with fat on our hips. We’ve been told that if something is high in fat then it couldn’t possibly be good for us. True, there are certain types of fats that are associated with health issues, mainly those that have been commercially modified.
Most people are aware that trans-fats are the biggest no, no, but what about the other sources of fat? Commercial interests have sold us on the idea that all fats are villains, and are taken out of our yogurt, salad dressings, favorite cookies and innumerable other products that line our grocery store shelves. Marketing of low-fat foods has invaded the way we eat for years.
Cholesterol has probably been demonized the most. The lower the cholesterol contained in a food, supposedly the healthier it is for us. Remember a few years back when there was a huge campaign against eating eggs? Too high in cholesterol to be healthy for us.
I don’t know who or what the motive behind that crusade was, but we were put in fear for our lives if we ate ‘high cholesterol’ eggs. That myth has largely been debunked, although it took years to assure folks again that eggs were a significant source of nutrition. Our bodies thrive on “good fats” and cholesterol – from eggs, is one of them.
In the ever evolving research being done on the brain and cognitive functions, medical science is now realizing that the brain is mostly made up of fat. While we deprive ourselves of the very nutrition that makes up brain matter, are we also depriving ourselves of good brain health?
The Framingham Heart Study identifies a linear association between total cholesterol and cognitive performance. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published research from the Mayo Clinic as early as 2012 revealing that older people who loaded their plates with carbohydrates rather than foods like fish, beef, chicken, avocados – all containing healthy fats, were at four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. While those who had the highest intake of healthy fats were 42% less likely to experience cognitive impairment.
Other neurological issues have been associated with low-fat diets and restrictive cholesterol levels. A study on elderly patients done by the National Institutes of Health compared memory function with their cholesterol levels. They discovered that people with higher levels of cholesterol had less memory problems than those with lower cholesterol counts.
What about cholesterol and heart disease? Have we been sold another bill of goods? Not quite. It’s been found that once the LDL molecule (mis-labeled as the “lousy” cholesterol) has been damaged by free radicals, it is no longer capable of carrying the cholesterol to the brain. It oxidizes in arteries and creates issues. Diet again comes into play as a major component of oxidized LDL cholesterol.
For example, too much sugar, natural and manufactured renders the fatty substance as an ineffective nutritional source. It can’t reach the brain, and instead becomes a clogging agent. It isn’t able to do its job of feeding the brain, but instead works against the flow of nutrition. Sugar is just one culprit, but there are other components that can come into play.
The brain is a fascinating subject and is a warehouse of surprises. How we care for it is vital to our enjoyment of life, and to the lives of those around us. Learning of, and implementing knowledge for good brain care is center to a life well lived.
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