a scene in the ancient wild: a time when drought and famine has
taken the land, food is scant and predators are near, and staying
alive depends on being active, alert, and quick-witted – and
asking, “Where did I find those nuts last year, and where was
that water hole?“
A protein called
SIRT1 in our brains may explain how our ancestors lived through
such nutritionally scarce situations by protecting neurons and keeping
the brain smart in extreme situations of survival.
recent research in animals suggests that through calorie restriction,
periodic fasting, taking compounds such as resveratrol, and drug
therapies of the future, humans today could increase production
of SIRT1 to sharpen their own thinking and memory, and guard against
the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
received a major boost in July when five connected studies evaluated
mice bred to have lower or increased levels of the SIRT1 protein
in their neurons. The studies showed that the protein is critical
for learning and memory, protects against memory loss, keeps mice
alert, physically active, and burning calories efficiently.
10 Steps to Enhance Brain Power
The human brain
evolved primarily to increase our chances of survival. So the trick
to boosting brain power and creativity, and sharpening thinking
and memory depends on tapping into the brain’s neural mechanisms
that are key to the ability to adapt to situations, solve problems,
and live to see another day of passing on genes.
modern life does little for brain power. Because SIRT1 is a crucial
protein keeping the brain healthy, active and smart, it’s important
to adopt habits that potentially increase levels of SIRT1 in the
brain for learning and memory. In parallel, there are other major
changes we can make that also improve the brain.
like a wild ancient human. Consume fewer calories and fast
periodically as our ancestors would have, in an environment where
food was occasionally scarce. Lowering calories leads to losing
weight, which is critical for reducing risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
in animals also show that calorie restriction and fasting increase
production of SIRT1 in the brain.
with resveratrol. The natural plant compound, found in many
foods including red grapes and red wine, is a known SIRT1 activator.
However, at least one randomized, clinical
trial in humans has found that doses of 250 and 500 milligrams
– more than 100 and 200 times the amount found in a glass
of pinot noir – taken twice daily is enough resveratrol to
boost blood flow in the brain. As little as 40 milligrams of resveratrol
daily in humans was also recently shown
to suppress oxidative stress and inflammation.
like a wild ancient human.
Our brains evolved once our ancestors were bipedal, and research
now shows that aerobic exercise – even the simple act of
going for walks
a couple of times weekly – is enough to improve brain function,
learning and memory, by boosting blood flow and increasing circulation
in the brain.
enough of the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D –
made naturally in your skin when it’s exposed to the sun’s
UV-B rays – is not really a vitamin at all, but a hormone,
with receptors throughout the body, including the brain’s
cortex and hippocampus, and responsible for cognitive performance.
The hormone is now known to be involved in protection and growth
of neurons, and new research
shows that vitamin D may be associated with protecting against
neurological diseases. Additionally, low levels of vitamin D are
with poor learning and memory. Recent research suggests most people
have low levels of vitamin D and that greater intake daily in
ranges of 1,000–2,000 international units daily are needed to
guard against insufficiency.
- Eat fish
or supplement with fish oil. Your brain is about 60 percent
fat, and most of that fat is a type of long-chain omega-3 fatty
acid found in rich amounts in fish, called docosahexaenoic acid,
or DHA. The last decade of research
has revealed a strong association between declining amount of
DHA in the brain and memory loss. In fact, one
study showed older adults who ate fish at least once a week
had 60 percent less risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Eat blueberries.
These berries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which
have been found to protect animals from neuronal damage and even
improve learning memory. Earlier this year, a randomized, double-blind
trial also showed that drinking 2 or more cups of wild blueberry
juice daily improves learning and memory in older adults. Additional
suggests that the blueberries are even more preventive the earlier
they’re adopted in the diet.