The Age Without Borders Virtual Summit is running this week, and one of the presentations was by Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, Professor of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine and president of the Brain Health and Wellness Center. Dr. Lombardo’s subject was “Brain Foods to Help Save Our Brains and Our Bodies,” and she presented recent research on the subject in a very meaningful way.
Her key point was that nutrition and hydration is one of the eleven domains of brain health, and it is a domain that we can totally control. We decide what we are going to eat or not eat, and how much. And eating for brain health has the added bonus of preventing negative outcomes in other parts of the body, including heart and coronary artery disease and diabetes.
While many of the foods she listed as being brain healthy were no surprise – veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds – several were surprising, spices and herbs, for one. Spices are strong antioxidants, reducing inflammation which leads to disease. Cinnamon especially is an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, and helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol. Another surprise was eggs. We have been told to limit egg consumption to one egg per week, because egg yolks are high in cholesterol. Dr. Lombardo cited research which showed that consuming cholesterol in foods does not deposit it in our arteries. Additionally, our bodies actually need a certain level of cholesterol for digestion and the control of blood sugar levels.
On the negative side was red meat – beef, pork and lamb. In addition to its saturated fat content, red meat seems to be detrimental in other ways which are not well understood at present. Limit consumption of red meat to once or twice a month.
Dr. Lombardo had her strongest words for sugar, not cholesterol. Sugar, she said, is “The pathway to Alzheimer’s Disease.” It is sugar that deposits the plaque in our arteries and leads to the tangles in the brain that cause memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Excess sugar consumption shrinks the hippocampus, that part of the brain that is associated with memory and emotions. This is true even in teenagers.
Sugar is in everything these days. Read the labels on processed food packages to see how much sugar has been added. Better yet, avoid processed foods altogether. Soda is especially evil. Even so-called ‘lite’ or low sugar foods made with artificial sweeteners are a risk to our health. The only sweetener recommended is Stevia.
These are only a few of her recommendations. Check her website for a Memory Preservation Nutrition Program plus resources, recipes and research supporting a healthy brain. The Brain Health and Wellness Center’s website is http://brainwellness.com/ It is a good source for brain healthy recipes, information about brain health, and the research behind it. For specific recommendations, see the Consumer Nutrition Tips page: http://brainwellness.com/nutrition/consumer-nutrition-tips-advice/