Brain Shrink

A January New Scientist health article titled “A Fat Tummy Shrivels Your Brain,” discusses a recent study that suggests a link between obesity and cognitive impairment. Dr. Antonio Convit at the New York University School of Medicine “found that obese individuals had more water in the amygdala—a part of the brain involved in eating behavior. He also saw smaller orbitofrontal cortices in obese individuals, important for impulse control… ” http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20927943.000-a-fat-tummy-shrivels-your-brain.html

Dr. William Douglass summarizes: When you overeat, you literally damage your brain to the point where it no longer knows how much to eat or when to stop. So you keep eating… making you even less able to stop yourself from overeating. And that means you get even fatter, causing even more brain shrinkage, which leads to more overeating…  http://douglassreport.com/2011/02/02/big-belly-small-brain/

Even if you’re caught in the overeating cycle, don’t lose hope! I am currently participating in a “Switch on Your Brain” workshop that uses Dr. Caroline Leaf’s fascinating “learn how to learn” material. According to her, brains can be retrained. A key aid to retraining is intake of quality foods. Leaf says the brain is a “hungry organ” that gets the “first bite” of the best nutrition it can grab from the food we eat. She also says protein is crucial for building, maintaining and repairing all the cells of our bodies, and that our brains need “sufficient quantities of high-quality protein…for neurotransmitter activity.” (www.drleaf.com)

“Good foods for your body and for your brain are the complete, complex protein foods with all the amino acids necessary for life. The best sources…are those nature provides in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, soybeans, and to a lesser extent, dairy products.”

Dr. Leaf suggests combining incomplete proteins such as beans, grains, nuts and seeds to create complete protein dishes. My kids grew up on red beans and rice, lentils and wholegrain crackers, chili and cornbread. We ate meat, but they never seemed to mind a complete-protein, meatless meal. Or peanut butter on rice cakes for lunch.

I often eat berries topped with soy yogurt (due to a milk allergy) along with nuts or spelt toast (spread with butter or coconut oil) for breakfast. Leaf says we should eat protein for breakfast, because it releases the neurotransmitters “needed for clear, fast, concise thinking and memory.”

In addition to protein, our bodies and brains need fats and complex carbohydrates—but not the “white poison” of refined carbohydrates. “Their chemical composition once metabolized is not much different from that of pure sugar.” Drink lots of filtered water, which Leaf says “can improve intellectual performance,” and eat fresh fruits in controlled quantities as well as fresh vegetables.

Be good to your brain, and it’ll be good to you! Becky



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