By Dr. Mercola
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and 1 of every 3 seniors dies with some form of dementia.1Families may spend over $5,000 each year caring for a loved one, and it costs the U.S. $216 billion a year for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
However, feeding your brain the right food isn’t just about preventing a disease in the future. Giving your brain the fuel it needs to function optimally may also improve your current cognitive function and creativity, making you more productive at work and at home.
Your brain needs the right fuel to nourish neurons, boost production of neurotransmitters and protect against damage and degeneration. BulkSupplements L-Leuc... Buy New $29.96 ($1.71 / Ounce) (as of 07:30 UTC - Details)
Unfortunately, some popular nutritional fads may have placed you at greater risk for damage to your neurons, without the additional heart health benefits and proponents of these dietary changes promised.
You may make a significant difference in your overall health and reduce your risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease when you purposefully include the foods your brain needs to function and detoxify.
Fuel Important to Your Brain
There are two types of fuel your body and brain can use to convert into energy. Either metabolized carbohydrates or fats may supply your brain and body with the energy it requires to survive.
Although your brain can use both, there is evidence to suggest that the metabolic product of fats, or ketones, will help restore and renew neurons, even after damage has started.
A primary source of these ketones is medium chain triglycerides (MCT). These triglycerides are not processed by the body in the same way as long-chain triglycerides. Usually, a fat is mixed with bile from your gallbladder before it is broken down in your intestines.
MCTs are digested like carbohydrates, entering your bloodstream more quickly but without the release of insulin associated with carbohydrates. Besides MCT oil, which is my preference, coconut oil has the highest percentage of MCTs, followed by palm oil and grass-fed, organic dairy products. Bellemain Multi-Functi... Check Amazon for Pricing.
While ketones from the breakdown of MCT may provide an excellent fuel for your brain, some areas of your brain require glucose for fuel. Fortunately, your body can turn amino acids, the building blocks of protein, into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.2
Your liver can also create glucose from glycerol found in stored triglycerides.3 In this way, the part of your brain that requires glucose receives a steady supply, even when your carbohydrate intake is low.
Fats and proteins are essential to your survival but your body could happily do without non-fiber carbohydrates. The only carbs you really need are fresh vegetables, which are a great source of the gut- and health-promoting fiber.
Low Fat Fad May Have Contributed to a Dramatic Rise in Dementia
There have been few formal studies evaluating the efficacy of ketones on the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s. Since the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s becomes resistant to insulin and is unable to use glucose for energy, some scientists are calling the disease type 3 diabetes.4
Nutritional ketosis has had modest beneficial effects on cognitive outcomes in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.5
Researchers have found a shared mechanism of pathogenesis between people suffering from metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s.6 Individuals with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and the reverse is also true.7
Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s also share a characteristic trait of those with epilepsy, as their brains are more electrically excitable, leading to seizure activity.8
Emerging evidence reveals a co-morbidity with epilepsy — so much so, in fact, that researchers recommend a more clinical investigation to improve early recognition when you suffer a seizure.
During one study, researchers found individuals with Alzheimer’s who were treated with an MCT supplement for 90 days experienced significant improvement in their cognitive function compared to those in the control group.9 One theory of how ketones are effective for brain fuel is how they affect reactive oxygen species (ROS).
A byproduct of cellular metabolism, ROS has a single electron. This makes them highly reactive and a contributor to aging, neurodegeneration, and stroke. The theory is that ketones are able to reduce the number of ROS and the resulting inflammation in your brain, thus reducing the damage to your neurons.10,11
By reducing the number of healthy fats you eat, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets can essentially starve your brain cells, prevent effective detoxification and diminish the structural components necessary for cognition, memory, and learning.
Reduce Oxidative Stress With Blueberries
While ketones provide your brain cells with effective fuel and are neuroprotective, they aren’t the only nutrient that may help reduce ROS in your brain. Kirkland Signature Who... Buy New $24.37 ($0.61 / Ounce) (as of 07:00 UTC - Details)
At the 251st Meeting and Exhibition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), research was presented that supported the use of blueberries in the prevention and potential treatment of cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s.12
Two studies were performed following earlier clinical trials. In the first, researchers compared freeze-dried blueberry powder to a placebo. In the second, they compared blueberry powder, fish oil, and a placebo.
Participants in the first study had measurable cognitive decline. However, those in the second study only felt they were experiencing cognitive issues.
In both studies, those taking the blueberry powder demonstrated improvements over those taking the placebo. In the second study, the participants taking the fish oil also experienced improvement. According to Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., lead author of the studies:13
“The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.”
The team also performed functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that demonstrated increased brain activity in the participants who took the blueberry powder. The strong antioxidant qualities of blueberries are just one of the reasons these little berries have been labeled a Kirkland Signature Wal... Buy New $15.89 (as of 10:47 UTC - Details) “superfood.”
Human studies have had promising results suggesting blueberry supplementation may improve neurocognitive function, with lower symptoms of depression and better glucose control.16
More Benefits From Healthy Fats and Blueberries
Bulletproof Brain Octa... Buy New $44.95 ($1.40 / Fl Oz) (as of 12:10 UTC - Details) In this 15-minute video, I show you the healthy high-fat meal I eat for breakfast each morning. Rich in coconut oil and antioxidants, this prepares my body and brain for the day ahead.
While feeding your brain a healthy diet does provide protection against neurodegeneration and ROS, the clinical results you may experience encompass more than improvements in cognitive functioning or potential prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, functional benefits of nutritional interventions such as nutritional ketosis and blueberries include:
Foods to Feed Your Brain and Improve Your Cognitive Function
The food you eat feeds your brain and significantly impacts your ability to think, learn and remember. Here are some of my favorite foods that not only are important to your brain but also to the rest of your body.27
Sources and References
- 1 Latest Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures. (2013). Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved 5 September 2016
- 2 Your Brain on Ketones. (2016). Psychology Today.
- 3 (2016). Authoritynutrition.com. Retrieved 6 September 2016
- 4 SM, d. (2016). Type 3 diabetes is sporadic Alzheimer׳s disease: mini-review. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 6 September 2016
- 5 Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- 6 Ferreira ST, e. (2016). Inflammation, defective insulin signaling, and neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease.
- 7 Giulio Maria Pasinetti, J. (2008). METABOLIC SYNDROME AND THE ROLE OF DIETARY LIFESTYLES IN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.
- 8 J, N. (2016). A perfect storm: Converging paths of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s dementia intersect in the hippocampal formation.
- 9 Study of the ketogenic agent AC-1202 in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial.
- 10 Ketone bodies are protective against oxidative stress in neocortical neurons. – PubMed – NCBI.
- 11 Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behavioural Pharmacology, 17(5-6), 431.
- 12, 13 More evidence backs berries for the brain. (2016). Newhope.com. Retrieved 7 September 2016
- 14 Willis LM, e. (2016). Recent advances in berry supplementation and age-related cognitive decline.
- 15 Selvaraju Subash, M. (2014). Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases.
- 16, 20 ROBERT KRIKORIAN, J. (2010). Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults.
- 17 Vanitallie TB, e. (2016). Treatment of Parkinson disease with diet-induced hyperketonemia: a feasibility study. – PubMed – NCBI.
- 18 Zhao Z, e. (2016). A ketogenic diet as a potential novel therapeutic intervention in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. – PubMed – NCBI.
- 19 Krikorian R, e. (2016). Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
- 21 Short term improvement of migraine headaches during ketogenic diet: a prospective observational study in a dietician clinical setting.
- 22 Ritter AM, e. (2016). Evaluation of a carbohydrate-free diet for patients with severe head injury. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
- 23 Carcinogenesis, 28(8), 1800-1806.
- 24 PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
- 25 Anti-diabetic properties of the Canadian lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.. (2016).
- 26 April J. Stull, W. (2010). Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women.
- 27 15 Foods for a Healthy Brain. (2016). The Epoch Times.