Memory & Brain Support

Keeping our brains healthy and sharp is just as important as physical fitness. The NorthStar blog on memory and brain support gives you breaking news on memory, cognitive health, and how to keep your brain sharp as a tack.

  1. Brain friendly bugs – probiotics and brain health

    Your belly bacteria may be your best bet for brain health.

    According to a group of UCLA researchers the good bacteria you get from the foods you eat… like the probiotics in yogurt… can affect your brain health.

    When a group of women were given a yogurt that contained a mix of several probiotics, MRI scans performed before and after the four week study showed some remarkable results.

    According to the scientists, the tests that were designed to measure how engaged certain regions of the brain were to a variety of visual stimuli confirmed that belly bugs do indeed affect your brain. When shown pictures of angry of frightened faces and asked to match them to other faces showing the same emotion, the brains of the women who got the belly-bug supplements lit up less in response to the images than the brains of the women who got a placebo or nothing at all.

    In other words, the probiotics appeared to help them manage the emotional stress the images caused. Not only that, when the probiotic-supplemented brains were at rest they showed more activity in a key area of the brain connected to cognition.

    The researchers say that the brain health findings may be a first step in coming up with new ways to prevent or treat digestive, mental and neurological disorders.

    But of course, if you’ve been following my advice you don’t need to wait for any more steps to reap the many benefits of probiotics. I’ve explained before how probiotics may be able to help you improve your mood and reduce your anxiety, how they could play a role in diabetes,  and how they may even be able to help boost your immunities by 50 percent!

    If you’re not already taking a probiotic this is one wagon you’re going to want to climb up on. Just be sure to choose a quality probiotic from a supplement maker you trust.

  2. Seniors beat youngsters in consistent cognitive performance

    And the grays have it!

    You know that old saying slow and steady wins the race? Well, surprisingly, it may be true when it comes to memory and cognitive performance too.
    As you add gray hairs to your head and candles to your birthday cake it's only natural to start to worry a bit about losing ground in the brains department. Memory loss... and not being able to hold our own with the younger crowd as a result... is a fear that most of us share. But it turns out this is one worry we can put to rest.

    In a new study, older folks (ages 65 to 80) beat the pants off a younger group of volunteers (ages 20 to 31) in a series of cognitive tests that tested everything from perceptual speed to working memory.

    How did the seniors do it? It turns out that consistency was the key.

    In all nine of the cognitive tests the older group had less variability in their day to day performance. Experts say this is because those of us who have earned some gray hairs on our heads have also had the time to learn how to effectively problem-solve and how to keep ourselves motivated. Plus, we tend to have balanced daily routines and more stable moods.

    And all this consistency shows up in real world results since older folks tend to make less judgment errors and in general are likely to be more reliable in critical situations than their younger peers. In other words... we ROCK!

  3. Anemia in seniors linked to higher dementia risks

    Driving down dementia risk

    Are you feeling weak or tired? Finding it hard to concentrate? Do you sometimes feel short of breath or as if your heart is racing? You may be running low on red blood cells. Anemia is a common problem and can hit seniors particularly hard. But unfortunately, because of its often vague symptoms that can mimic those of countless other illnesses, it routinely goes undiagnosed.

    Now a new study published in the journal Neurology has linked the condition with an increased risk of dementia.

    Researchers followed a large group of mentally healthy seniors for 11 years, recording their red-blood-cell counts and giving them mental functioning tests regularly. They found that those who were anemic at the start of the study had a staggering 49 percent increased risk for dementia compared to those with normal blood counts.

    We can't say for sure yet that correcting the anemia will drastically drop your risks for dementia, but all signs are pointing in that direction. Besides, there are lots of other great reasons you should have your anemia treated anyway, like leaving behind that fatigue and those concentration problems I mentioned earlier.

    The good news is that anemia is easy to diagnose with a simple blood test. And most cases are fairly simple to treat. If you're having any symptoms talk with your doctor about being tested.

  4. Choline improves memory and attention span

    And the B's have it

    Once again B vitamins are proving to be best buds with your brain.

    I've told you before about their role in fighting brain shrinkage, depression, and schizophrenia. This time it's the B vitamin choline that's getting some well-deserved attention.

    According to an animal study at the University of Granada choline may have the ability to improve memory and attention span.... both things that most of us could use a little help with from time to time.

    You can get more choline into your diet by eating eggs, chicken, beef liver, and wheat germ (if you're not gluten sensitive of course)... or by taking a supplement.

  5. Fish may help kids with reading, memory, and behavior problems

    Old WISE Tales

    The thing about Old Wives Tales is they almost always turn out to be true. We really should call them Old WISE Tales instead.

    For example, I'm betting somewhere along the line your mother, aunt, or grandmother told you that fish is brain food. And a stack of studies has proven this old saw to be right on the money over and over again. Like, for example, the study published in the journal Neurology last year that found that volunteers with lower omega-3 levels also had lower brain volumes and the memory problems to match.

    Now British researchers from the University of Oxford are saying increasing your 7 to 9 year old child's omega-3 levels might help him do better in school. Low DHA levels were linked to poorer reading ability and working memory. And as an added bonus, upping you child's levels might help with behavior problems too, since low DHA was associated with behavior and emotional issues.

  6. Pesticides linked to Parkinson's disease risk factors

    The Parkinson's risk factor lurking in your garden

    It's a terrifying and devastating disease. But, ironically, as frightening as Parkinson's is, it typically starts with little more than a mere whimper. In fact, the earliest signs of this neurological disease are often so minor they're easy to miss. And if they ARE noticed they can mistakenly be dismissed as simple signs of aging rather than Parkinson’s risk factors. A tiny tremor in a finger... or a tingling in a toe... could be the first sign of trouble. But way too soon your quality of life can take a beating, as those early Parkinson's risk factors give way to more serious ones, like trouble walking, talking, and reading. Tremors in your hands, arms, and legs can turn everyday tasks into nightmares. Stiff muscles and weakness can leave you dependent on of the most trying aspects of the disease. Eventually you could become bedridden... or worse. Although statistics will tell you that as many as a million American's are living with Parkinson's... and an estimated seven to 10 million are worldwide... those numbers are likely laughably low, since thousands of people go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed every year. And while genetic factors may account for some cases, scientists have, frankly, been baffled when it comes to the cause of the disease for the majority of sufferers. Well, that is until some researchers in Italy did some digging recently and uncovered a link between pesticides and Parkinson's risk factors. (You know, the "if it was a snake it would have bitten you" kind of link.) Of course, had they been Guide to Good Health readers like you they might have caught on much faster, since I've been talking about this association for years now. In fact, just a couple of months ago I reminded readers of the growing link between pesticides and a variety of chronic diseases including Alzheimer's, diabetes, allergies, and, of course, Parkinson's. (In that same issue I shared a hint about one small change you can make at the grocery store that could make a HUGE difference in your risk level. If you missed it, click here to catch up.)

    Creepy chemicals raise risk up to 80 percent

    But back to that Italian study. It was actually an analysis of 104 previous studies examining the role of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and solvents in Parkinson's risk factors. After crunching all the numbers, the team found that people exposed to bug and weed killers or solvents had an astonishing 33 to 80 percent higher risk of developing the disease than people who were never exposed to the nasty chemicals. And those who had come into contact with some of the ugly herbicides and fungicides I've warned you about before... paraquat, maneb, and mancozed... had around a two-fold increase in risk of ending up with the devastating disease. A link has already been made in past studies between farming or country living and Parkinson's, and the researchers confirmed that, too. And of course, if you are living or working in an area with a lot of farms, you're being exposed to significantly more of these chemicals than the average Joe. But don't get comfortable if you're a city slicker or a suburban soul yet, because you're certainly not off the hook. Some of these chemicals could still be used in yards and gardens near you, you may be exposed to them at work, and the produce you pick up at the supermarket could be swimming in them too. Heck, you yourself might be spraying your own garden and driveway with Roundup weed and grass killer (glyphosate). It seems like just about everyone is these days.

    Four steps to reducing Parkinson's risk

    That's why my Four Steps to a Parkinson's-Free Life plan can come in handy. The first one is obvious, and I hinted at it earlier. Step number one is to replace the fruits and veggies in your shopping cart with organic versions. This one small change could make a huge impact on your risk level. Now I know that buying organic produce can cost more than the run-of-the-mill stuff. I suggest you try your local farmer's market for in-season affordable small-farm replacements. And if you're still finding it a stretch, check out the Dirty Dozen list compiled by our friends over at the Environmental Working Group. It can help you figure out which fruits and veggies are likely to be the most contaminated. Step number two is to bump up your vitamin B6 levels. It's easy to become deficient in B6, and having low levels might leave you vulnerable to Parkinson's. In fact, at least two solid studies connect a deficiency of this important vitamin to the disease. Low levels of it may increase your risk by up to 50 percent, according to one Japanese study. And another study found that those with the highest levels were 54 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's than those with the lowest levels. You can get more B6 in your diet by eating bananas, bell peppers, garlic, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes (with the skins on), meat, and fish. And a B-complex supplement can also help round out your levels. Step number three is to get more vitamin D. The multi-talented sunshine vitamin has been linked with  lower Parkinson's risk factors. In one study participants with the highest D levels had a stunning 68 percent lower risk of developing the disease than those with the lowest levels. Stepping out into the sunshine is the easiest way to raise your D levels, but some people might still need to supplement. I generally recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily. A doctor can measure your levels and help you decide what dose is best for you And step number four, and the final step, is one you're sure to enjoy. Are you ready for this? Eat more berries! Yup, that really is it. You see, phytonutrient-packed berries, as I've explained before, are like tiny little toxin mops. They can literally help protect your brain. And while you're at it, stock up on peppers and tomatoes. These members of the Solanaceae family have been linked with lowering your risk too. There are no guarantees in life, but if you follow these four simple steps you could end up drastically reducing your Parkinson's disease risk factors. And considering the devastating alternative, I'd say that it's well worth the effort, wouldn't you agree?
  7. Music therapy for anxiety in ICU patients

    Music has the power to soothe

    If you've ever nursed a broken heart with some soothing harmonies, or cranked up the tunes to help you cram for a big exam, then the results of a new study on music therapy for anxiety in ICU patients might not come as too much of a surprise. Researchers from Ohio State University's College of Nursing have shown that music's a real winner when it comes to soothing the anxiety of ventilator patients in the intensive care unit. The scientists essentially made what kids used to refer to as "mix tapes" for each of the participants in the study. A music therapist helped each patient choose their preferred musical pieces and custom CDs were tailor-made to match their tastes. The CDs were played on a loop on portable CD players kept on patients' bedside tables. They were allowed to listen to the music using headphones whenever they wanted to. The option to listen to music lowered anxiety levels by an impressive 36.5 percent on average, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And, just as important in an ICU setting, the music therapy for anxiety  also dropped the number of sedative doses given by 38 percent and the intensity of the doses by 36 percent, when compared to other ventilated ICU patients. Of course, you don't need to be in the ICU to experience the soothing nature of music. If you're feeling stressed, anxious, or down just toss on some of your favorite tunes and experience the healing power of music for yourself.
  8. Preventing Alzheimer's: one of the many benefits of B vitamins

    Benefits of B vitamins: Beat dementia and Alzheimer's

    Mainstream research sort of reminds me of an enormous snail. It's backed by tons of funding, but still plods along at a painfully slow pace. Watching its lumbering progress is kind of like...well...watching paint dry. That's why I'm seldom surprised when a study comes along confirming what those of us who are already committed to natural medicine have been saying for years, such as the benefits of B vitamins. (Although, I do have to admit, I'm NOT above being amused by it. After all, when corporate-controlled researchers sheepishly admit "the quacks" were right all along, it's sometimes hard to suppress a smirk.) A new study is knocking the socks off of those in the mainstream. Researchers have found that high doses of B vitamins can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Now long time readers of the Guide to Good Health won't be surprised by this news. I first introduced you to the benefits of B vitamins for brain health years ago. You see, the brain shrinkage, or atrophy, which occurs naturally as we get older, is accelerated for some people resulting in "mild cognitive impairment" (a stage that comes before dementia or Alzheimer's disease). But for those suffering with full-blown Alzheimer's, it's like someone hit the fast-forward button, with shrinkage sometimes occurring at over 400 percent faster than the normal rate.

    Stop cognitive decline with B vitamins

    For years, those of us who practice nutrition-based medicine have known that the amino acid homocysteine plays an important role in how fast brain shrinkage occurs. The higher the homocysteine levels the faster the shrink, and the higher your risk of cognitive decline. But I'll give you one guess what reduces homocysteine levels. Yup, you got it, B vitamins. In fact, B vitamins can slash homocysteine levels by an astounding 25 to 50 percent! And I bet you won't be surprised to learn that earlier research, done at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, found that when a group of seniors suffering from lower cognition scores and brain volumes than their peers were tested, they were vitamin B12 deficient. This latest study from Oxford University simply adds fuel to the fire. Researchers gave 165 seniors with mild cognitive impairment a combo of B12 (500 mcg), B6 (20 mg), and folic acid or a placebo for two years. The group that received the B vitamins showed significantly less shrinkage than the placebo group. In fact, researchers said the high-dose vitamins reduced the brain atrophy in the gray matter of the brain that's particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease by a stunning seven fold! While you can take advantage of the health benefits of B vitamins throughout your life, knowing your B levels once you hit 60 becomes critical. You see, seniors are at particularly high risk for being B deficient. But one of the main reasons why that risk is so high might come as a surprise.

    Prescription drugs lead to vitamin deficiencies

    A study out of Vienna holds the answer. Researchers there recruited 100 adults between the ages of 70 and 90 and blood tests revealed that many of them were dangerously deficient in B vitamins. In fact, 20 to 30 percent were scraping the bottom of barrel when it came to vitamins B1, B6, B12, and folate. And a whopping 60 percent didn't have enough B2 on board. But here's the kicker...researchers uncovered a clear connection between the prescription drugs the seniors were on and their vitamin deficiencies. In fact, the more drugs they were downing the higher their risk was. Many common drugs...from antibiotics to high blood pressure meds...can cause vitamin levels to drop. And of course it's easy to connect the dots between the steep rise in Alzheimer's disease cases and the equally as steep rise in prescription medicine use as more and more of us enter our golden years. So, the bottom line is, maintaining your B vitamin levels could be the key to avoiding brain problems in the future. A nice juicy steak is a good place to start since B12 can only be upped naturally with animal sources such as meat, milk, and eggs. I also generally recommend a B complex to cover all of your B bases. But first, pay a visit to a doctor skilled in natural medicine who can run tests to check your levels and determine what your personal B vitamin needs are.
  9. The dementia-fighting benefits of the Mediterranean diet

    Drive away dementia with this fatty food secret

    When I mention the Mediterranean you probably think of warm, salty breezes, brilliant blue skies, and deliciously-rich, tummy-pleasing food. And if you haven't yet had the pleasure of visiting the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, that's exactly what awaits you when you do, including the benefits of the delicious Mediterranean diet. All of those things are healing to the soul, but the diet has a lot to offer your body too. I've talked about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet before with its crisp fresh vegetables, hearty whole grains, mouth-watering seafood, and rich olive oil. Much of the research that's been done on this palate-pleasing diet has to do with its ability to help you lose or maintain weight, or its effects on your heart health. And for good reason: it does a bang up job in both areas. (I'll let you in on a little secret; it's the omega-3 rich unsaturated fats like olive oil... a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet... that appears to be the key to its success. More on that link later.)

    Delicious diet drives away disease

    For example, there's the Spanish study that focused on a mixed group of 7,500 volunteers who were at high risk for heart disease. The group was divided into three smaller groups. The first and second groups followed a typical Mediterranean diet, with the first group getting 15 liters of olive oil to use in cooking over three months, and the second group getting 30 grams a day of mixed nuts. The third group of unlucky souls was given instructions to follow a low-fat diet. As you might have guessed the high-fat Mediterranean groups experienced measurable improvements...with the men and women who had entered the study with atherosclerosis showing the most progress. But the low-fat dieters didn't see their health improve. And just a couple of months ago I told you about the dramatic drop in heart risk that comes with following this same diet. Researchers showed that groups eating the Mediterranean diet have an overall 30-percent lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or dying from heart disease when compared to low-fat dieters. But it's one study that I reported on several years ago that gave us our first glimmer of a link between this diet and the brain. Researchers followed 10,000 healthy men and women for 10 years, monitoring their diets and mental health. At the end of the study the dieters found the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, with a 30 percent lower incidence of depression.

    Your brain benefits from the right fats

    Now a new U.S. study has found that your brain experiences the benefits of the Mediterranean diet as you enter your golden years...driving away dementia as it helps to keep your memories intact and your thinker as sharp as a tack. Researchers gathered data from the huge REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study focusing in on a mixed group of 14,478 people whose average age was 64. Volunteer's diets were evaluated to see how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet and they underwent memory and cognitive ability testing over a four year period. According to the study published in the journal Neurology, the non-diabetics in the group, who followed what was essentially a Mediterranean diet, had an impressive 19 percent lower risk for developing memory or cognition problems, when compared to the rest of the volunteers. These findings build on an earlier study, published in the journal Archives of Neurology, which found that the diet appears to reduce damage to small blood vessels in the brain. Such striking results from a deliciously-rich and tummy-pleasing diet are exciting, and we don't have to dig too deeply to find clues to why it works. As I mentioned earlier, healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. And research shows us that it's those very fats that fight oxidative stress and inflammation helping guard against all kinds of health complications including stroke, heart attack, high cholesterol, cancer, Alzheimer's, dementia, and signs of aging like memory and cognitive troubles. ("You mean there's such a thing as GOOD fat?!?" Not what you've heard, right? Read this to find out the real truth behind about fat.) You've heard of having your cake and eating it too, right? Well, the Mediterranean diet is like a dream come true. You get to have your flavorful fat and eat it, too.
  10. Research shows berries are good "brain food"

    Good “brain food” helps protects your brain against toxins

    When it comes to housecleaning, your brain isn't always up to snuff. In fact, to be perfectly honest, your noggin really could use a little help clearing out the cobwebs from time to time. And little did you know, good “brain food” could be the answer… The sooner you get started, the better. Because unlike letting the laundry go for a few days, or having the dishes stack up, sitting around with a dirty brain can actually have some serious consequences. You see, devastating diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are associated with toxins building up in the brain. So naturally, getting rid of those dirty toxic intruders and lowering your risk is important. And now, new research from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging may have just given us an easy--not to mention delicious--way to do just that. It turns out that good “brain food” like berries might be your brain's best friend. More on that study in a moment, but first let's go over what we already know about the healing powers of these delicious summertime fruits.

    From brains to blood pressure berries do your body good

    Research has found that berries are good "brain food," so if you've already been eating your berries like I've been advising you to, I might not need to remind you just how good these little nuggets of nutrition are. Over the years I've shared how they can boost your brain health, reduce your risk of vision loss, fight aging, help manage blood pressure, and even help ward off certain types of cancer. In 2009 researchers in the UK announced that blueberries might be able to help fight off age-related cognitive decline. Their research found that supplementing the diets of senior rats with blueberry powder helped them to significantly improve their maze-solving abilities...almost catching up with the young whippersnapper control rats. And a few years later, in another animal study, rats fed a blueberry-enriched diet had their memory scores skyrocket, performing just as well as the young studs in solving mazes from memory. And the blueberries had a lasting effect too, with rats that had eaten the special diet hanging onto their "younger" brains long after they stopped chowing down on this good brain food. (Age and toxic buildup aren't the only things that can slow your brain down to a crawl. Too much of this one popular food may end up making you stupid! Click here to find out what it is.) According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, berries could reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. And, of course, there's the heart-protection that berries may offer. Earlier this year a study published in the journal Circulation found that women who ate at least three servings of strawberries and blueberries a week had a 32 percent drop in heart attack risk, when compared to women who ate berries just once a month or less.

    Berries beat disease-linked toxins

    Now, new research is adding to an already impressive berry resume. According to researchers, berries can protect your brain by helping clear away toxic proteins that build up and do damage. Rats fed a berry diet for two months had their brains artificially aged using radiation. The rats were then divided into two groups. The first group had their brains evaluated 36 hours after the dose of radiation. Then after 30 more days on the berry diet, the brains of the group two rats were evaluated. They found that the berry-eaters experienced significant protection against the radiation when compared with the controls. The berries had literally reduced the toxic accumulation. Researchers aren't exactly sure yet how the berries perform their brain-protecting trick, but they speculate phytonutrients are involved. I'd say they're definitely on the right track. As I've explained before, berries are jam-packed with inflammation-fighting antioxidants and other disease-beating phytonutrients. The antioxidants gobble up harmful disease causing free radicals all over your body. But unlike the nutrients found in some other foods, the antioxidants in berries can cross the blood-brain barrier allowing them to target the buildup in your brain. With spring in full swing and summer right around the corner it's the perfect time to add more berries to your diet. But keep in mind that berries are particularly sensitive to pesticide exposure. So skip the supermarket specials and grab the organic varieties instead. Organic might cost you a bit more, but the extra cash is well worth it. Try your local farmers market for good deals on organic small-farm fruits and vegetables.
  11. Is buying organic worth it? Buy organic and you may avoid raising disease risks

    Creepy chemicals in your food may be making you sick

    "Is buying organic worth it?" It's a question I get asked a lot. My answer is simple: "Yes, absolutely." But, you're a Guide to Good Health reader, so I'm guessing a simple yes is not nearly good enough. You want to know why. Well hold on to your hat, and take a seat while you're at it. We'll start with a hidden ingredient in the mainstream food supply that's been linked to serious, and in some cases even potentially deadly, diseases. It's the factory-farming mainstay, pesticides. These nasty chemicals are liberally sprayed on our foods ending up in them, the environment, and, ultimately, us. And the results can be devastating.

    Pesticides raise your risk of disease

    Exposure to some of these creepy chemicals can cause your risk of Alzheimer's disease to climb. And that climb isn't small. According to one Duke University study, repeated exposure to organophosphate pesticides may cause your risk for Alzheimer's disease to shoot up by a staggering 53 percent. This alone should have you reaching for the organics when you're in the produce aisle. But, sadly, it's far from the only reason. Pesticides have been associated with allergies, tumors, insulin resistance, and even lower IQ's. Plus, the link between pesticides and Parkinson's disease has been building for years. Studies have already connected some common pesticides...including paraquat, maneb, and increases in the disease. According to researchers at UCLA, exposure to all three can increase your risk for the disease threefold over those with less exposure. And now the UCLA research team has uncovered yet more proof of that link. In their most recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers took a closer look at the pesticide benomyl. They confirmed that the chemical damages or destroys dopaminergic neurons, starting the cascade of events that leads to Parkinson's. In another new study, a team of researchers from the University of Granada in Spain revealed a link between the pesticide DDT and type-2 diabetes. People exposed to higher concentrations of DDE...a component of DDT... are four times more likely to develop type-2 diabetes, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Research. And the latest pesticide news is enough to literally turn your stomach. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, the application of pesticides is a likely source of the nasty norovirus. Now you may not know the norovirus by name, but if you've ever suffered through a winter stomach flu... complete with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea... you sure know the virus's terrible stomach-wrenching effects.

    Factory farm foods spell trouble

    If a skyrocketing risk for everything from Alzheimer's disease to the norovirus isn't enough to get you to change your shopping habits, there are still a few more good reasons buying organic is worth it, starting with those pesky pesticides again. The pesticides used in our food crops aren't only harming us. Wildlife is being exposed to the same toxic soup with troubling consequences....from reproductive problems in birds to a dangerous decline in the bee population. Runoff from factory farms exposes marine life to these chemicals, including the fish that could end up on your dinner table tomorrow. The average person's levels of the pesticides DDT, dieldrin, and chlordane exceed "acceptable limits" in large part because of the contaminated seafood we eat, according to a study in Environmental Research. (Although in my book anything above zero should be unacceptable.) And these chemicals have staying power. Remember the pesticide benomyl that I mentioned a little earlier? Benomyl's maker, Dupont, pulled it off the market more than 10 years ago (after the EPA found that the chemical may be linked to cancer, liver toxicity, birth defects, and reproduction problems), but its effects are still being felt. You can add to that already towering mountain of negatives that the careless over-farming that's practiced on most factory farms robs the soil of vital nutrients. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that fruits and veggies grown in barren soil will end up tasteless and low in important vitamins and minerals. Sure, organic produce isn't perfect. But it's pretty darn good, and a heck of a lot better than the alternative. For my money, buying organic is worth it. However, in these economic times, I understand that making a dollar stretch as far as possible is important. So, for a list of fruits and veggies that you should always buy organic, check out the "Dirty Dozen" list compiled by our friends over at the Environmental Working Group.
  12. Vitamin B-12, folate and schizophrenia risk

    Vitamin pair tackles schizophrenia symptoms

    What took you so long? This was my first thought when I read about the results of a recent study linking vitamin B-12, folate and schizophrenia risk. Because, let's face it, these brain-supporting supplements are a natural fit for just about any condition that involves the old noodle. Frankly, I'm surprised that researchers didn't make this connection years ago. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in fish, eggs, and meat. This critical nutrient...often called the "energy vitamin" used by every single cell in your body. It has already been shown to help support memory, drive away depression, ease migraines, and literally prevent brain shrinkage. And, according to researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, low vitamin B-12 levels may be linked with the loss of brain cells and cognition problems in seniors. Its kissing cousin folate is another member of the B-vitamin family. You may know folate as folic acid, the name given to the man-made version of the vitamin that's given to women to help prevent neural defects in their unborn babies. Folate is found naturally in foods like liver, sunflower seeds, and yeast extract. And, like B-12, folate has a role to play in easing depression, fighting brain atrophy, and in helping to prevent age-related memory loss. And both folate and vitamin part of the vitamin B-Complex a part in driving down homocysteine, which experts say not only can help keep your heart healthy, but may also be the key to slowing the brain shrinkage that can lead to dementia. In other words, B vitamins and a healthy brain are kind of like love and Ol' Blue Eyes said, "You can't have one without the other."

    Positive results with B-12 and folate

    If this mountain of evidence of the brain B connection wasn't enough to make schizophrenia researchers take notice, one other thing should have. It turns out that past research had already turned up a link between folate and schizophrenia. So, of course, when researchers did finally get around to testing folate and vitamin B-12 (which can increase the effects of folate) they, naturally, found that the vitamins indeed had a positive effect on schizophrenia symptoms. To determine whether B-12 and folate had any effects on schizophrenia symptoms, researchers conducted a 16-week, randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind study involving 140 patients with chronic schizophrenia. Volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups, and either received 2 mg folic acid and 400 micrograms B-12 daily, or a placebo. Participants' symptoms were then monitored using two standard tools called the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS), which measured changes in negative symptoms, and the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANNS), which measured positive and total symptoms.

    B vitamins beat back symptoms

    Although overall symptoms did improve in the vitamin group, the improvement was not considered statistically significant at first. But then the researchers hit pay dirt when they looked specifically at four genes that are associated with more severe symptoms. It turns out that the volunteers who received vitamins, and had variants in one of three of the genes, saw significant improvements in their symptoms. Patients in the last gene group were the most severely folate deficient, and the researchers believe that had the study lasted a bit longer, so their folate levels could build up further, we would have seen the same types of improvements in them as well. In the end, the researcher's had to admit that the B vitamins worked, and they even recommended using them, concluding, "...the disability associated with negative symptoms, coupled with a lack of available treatments and the safety of vitamin supplementation, may make it a treatment worth trying." Sure, you need to read between the lines and ignore the lukewarm delivery, but make no mistake about it, that's high praise coming from a mainstream source. For general use I typically recommend 800 micrograms (mcg) of folate and 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 daily to start. Talk with your doctor about what amounts are best for you. And if you, or someone you care about, is struggling with schizophrenia talk with your doctor about how B vitamins might be able to help.
  13. Common nutrients for the brain may help fight Alzheimer’s

    Brain breakthrough makes you "Alzheimer's proof"?

    Few things are as terrifying as the prospect of losing your mind. But that's exactly what you face when you're handed an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Alzheimer's slowly robs you of your independence, your memories, and, ultimately, yourself. There's no cure for it and, up until now with hardly any new information about nutrients for brain health, we knew precious little about the disease... and even less about how to prevent its devastating effects. But now, two new studies published just this month are raising real hopes about beating back this terrible disease with the power of common nutrients for brain health. And it turns out some of the answers we've been looking for were right under our noses the whole time. I'll have more details on those breakthroughs in a moment. But first you need to know a little bit about how this disease strikes.

    Understanding Alzheimer's

    Amyloids are abnormal proteins produced in your body. The toxic proteins, which can end up being deposited in any of your organs, are linked to a variety of diseases including Parkinson's and diabetes. But when the rogue proteins end up in your brain they are converted into beta-amyloids and they're linked to Alzheimer's disease. As the beta-amyloids build up in your brain, they start to clump together forming super-sticky balls of destruction called amyloid plaques. And it's when these toxic protein balls stick to the proteins called prions (that live on the surface of nerve cells) that we really have a problem. The nerve cells soon begin to malfunction and it isn't long before they wither and die. So, as you can imagine, figuring out how to interrupt this brain-destroying process is priority number one for Alzheimer's researchers. And that's why the findings of a recent study of good nutrients for the brain published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry are so exciting. It turns out that the researchers needed to look to the world of natural medicine to begin to make real progress on unraveling the Alzheimer's puzzle.

    Natural extracts beat brain plaques

    Researchers wanted to find out if changing the shape of those sticky amyloid balls had any effect on their ability to attach to the prions on the nerve cells. So they created some of the toxic protein balls in a test tube and added them to both human and animal brain cells. When they introduced green tea and red wine extracts to the mix, something incredible happened. The amyloid plaques no longer damaged the nerve cells! The extracts literally reshaped the balls so they could no longer attach to the prions. Now, of course the researchers responded with...yup, you guessed it...a call to figure out how to turn this stunning natural breakthrough into an un-natural Big Pharma drug. Lead researcher Professor Nigel Hooper enthusiastically reported, "I'm certain that this will increase our understanding of Alzheimer's disease even further, with the potential to reveal yet more drug targets." Way to miss the forest for the trees, Prof. But wait, I'm not done with Alzheimer's breakthroughs yet. Another study, published this month in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, has the world of natural medicine to thank for its findings too.

    "Alzheimer's proofing" your brain

    In a small study, a team of researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA have confirmed that nutrients that are good for the brain including vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids may be able to help mop up those toxic Alzheimer's-linked amyloids I spoke of earlier. The researchers drew blood samples from patients with Alzheimer's, as well as healthy volunteers. Next they extracted immune cells called macrophages from the samples. And here's where things start to get really interesting. Macrophages operate kind of like little Pac-men in your body. Only they go around gobbling up waste products instead of ghosts. One of those waste products is beta-amyloid. The UCLA scientists wanted to find out what kind of effect vitamin D3, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, would have on the amyloid-eaters. They combined the macrophages with beta-amyloids and let them sit overnight. Next, they added an active form of either vitamin D3 or the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. And then a funny thing happened. The macrophages that came from the blood of the volunteers with Alzheimer's disease got an observable boost from the added nutrients for brain health. They were able to gobble up even more of the beta-amyloid garbage. And, most importantly, they were able to inhibit the nerve cell death that's normally caused by the toxic proteins. More study is, of course, needed. The researchers are planning for a clinical trial in the future. But there's no reason to wait around for those results. I've sung the praises of all of these nutrients at one time or another. The fact that they may have the extra benefit of "Alzheimer's proofing" your brain is just a very welcome added bonus.
  14. The FDA issues warning on the sleeping pill side effects of Ambien

    How seeking some shut-eye could kill you

    You're a responsible adult. You'd never down a few glasses of wine and get behind the wheel of your car. Tossing back a couple of shots and going for a drive would be unthinkable. Yet, shockingly, you could still be driving under the influence, high as a kite, with no clue that it's even happening, according to new evidence of sleeping pill side effects. As bizarre as it sounds, if you're one of the more than 56 million Americans taking a prescription sleep drug, this frightening scenario could be all too real. It turns out that simply by taking your sleep aid as prescribed at night and then driving to work the next morning you could be putting your life, and the lives of others, at grave risk. And for women, the threat of sleeping pill side effects is even higher. In fact, the danger's so real that in a rare move the FDA has issued a warning and is requiring the manufacturers of some popular sleep drugs to slash their recommended dosage of 10 mg (12.5 mg for extended release versions) for women in half. And although most men tend to metabolize the drug faster—so the next-morning sleeping pill side effects are not as much of a threat—the FDA is strongly recommending that doctors consider lowering the dosages for them too. They're even requiring the drug manufacturers to add this recommendation to the drug labeling. Perhaps most shocking of all is that this drug isn't a newcomer to the table either. Not by far. In fact, it's been on the market for 20 years! That means that drugged drivers flying high on sleeping pills is not a new problem, it just took the FDA this long to do anything about it. (Why am I not surprised?) And while you probably don't recognize the generic name zolpidem, you're sure to know at least one of the popular sleep products this strong sedative is featured in, which include Ambien, Intermezzo, Edluar, and Zolpimist.

    Sleep-drug side effects

    Of course the potential dangers from sleeping pill side effects don't stop with driving high. These drugs increase your risk for taking a tumble. In fact, one study, published last year in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, found that zolpidem increased the fall risk for healthy adults by 27 percent. The news was worse for older adults. Their fall risk shot up by 58 percent in the same study. And you don't need me to tell you that a fall in your golden years can be a disaster that ends up with you in the hospital, or worse. (But if you do end up there look out, because sleeping pills are associated with falls there, too.) Sleeping pills have also been linked to eating, sex, and even driving, all while still, technically, sound asleep. And while falls and strange sleep walking episodes are bad, they aren't even the worst of it. Not by a long shot. As I reported last year, if you're a senior, taking certain sleep drugs can cause your risk of dementia to skyrocket by a staggering 50 percent! An earlier study found that sedative users have a 36 percent greater risk of dying. And just last year the news got even worse when a study published in the journal BMJ Open found a link between certain prescription sleep drugs, (all the biggies were represented Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, and Restoril) and an early death. Heavy users of the drugs were five times more likely to die early. Light users didn't fare much better. At around just 18 pills a year occasional sleeping pill users were three and half times more likely to die prematurely than non-users.

    Get your zzz's naturally

    Of course the best way to avoid all of these terrible, and even deadly, sleeping pill side effects is to 'just say no' to your drug-pushing doc, when he tries to write you a prescription for a sleep aid. But when you're suffering with insomnia, and desperate for some shut-eye, I know that's hard to do. Trust me, I've been there. But the good news is that there are good alternatives to those heavy-duty prescription drugs. Starting with the most obvious one...and the one that also happens to be the most overlooked... and that's eliminating stimulants from your diet. Sure, most of us who suffer with insomnia from time to time already know that we should cut out caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda. However, you should also take a look at the supplements you're taking. If taken right before bed, certain stimulants like ginseng, B12, and milk thistle can keep you from falling to sleep. Next make your bedroom sleep friendly by moving the TV out and banning brain stimulating back-lit devices like iPads for at least two hours before turning in. For some people a white-noise machine that lets you fall asleep to nature sounds, such as gentle rain or ocean waves, can be very helpful. If you find that you're still having trouble getting to sleep after that, many people find that l-tryptophan, GABA, or the hormone melatonin works for them. A doctor skilled in natural medicine can help you decide which combination of natural sleep supplements will work best for you. And if anxiety is at the root of your sleepless nights, magnesium, red clover, or...believe it or not...a probiotic may be all it takes to help ease you off to la-la land.
  15. Fight depression with B vitamins--B12 and folate

    Say bye to the blues with Bs

    Are you, or a friend, feeling a bit blue? Skip the potentially dangerous--and likely useless--drugs and head for the vitamin aisle instead. According to a new study on depression and B vitamins, taking vitamin B12 and folate for depression could be the key to driving the disease away. I've told you before about the ability of B vitamins to support brain health and drive away the blues. Now Finnish researchers have linked low levels of folate and vitamin B12 in the diet to typical depressive symptoms. In fact, among 3,000 farmers, the men with the highest amounts of these important vitamins in their diets were 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression. You can get more of both these B vitamins in foods such as liver and eggs, as well as in supplements.
  16. High carb and sugar diet linked to cognitive decline in the elderly

    Comfort foods can sabotage your brain

    Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have linked carbohydrate- and sugar-rich foods to a raised risk of mild cognitive decline in the elderly. And it's not a small jump in risk we're talking about here. According to the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, if you're 70 or older and eat foods high in carbs you have nearly four times the risk of cognitive impairment. And that kind of impairment can cause problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment.

    Carbs linked to cognition slips

    For the study on cognitive decline in the elderly, researchers started with a group of 1,230 people ages 70 to 89. They asked the volunteers to give them details about their eating habits for the past year. And each volunteer had their brain health evaluated by a panel of medical experts. A total of 940 people showed no signs of cognitive impairment at the start of the study. By the four year mark around 200 of the original 940 were starting to show some signs of decline. When the researchers crunched the numbers they found that those who had chowed down on the most carbs were 1.9 times more likely to show a decline than those who ate the least. And the sugar lovers in the group were 1.5 times more likely to experience impairment than those who ate the least sugar. But one finding likely threw the knee-jerk fat-haters out there (AKA mainstream medicine robots) for a loop. The researchers found that those with the most fat in their diets were a stunning 42 percent less likely to show cognitive decline. And protein fans had a 21 percent reduced risk. And when the researchers looked at total fat and protein together they found that cognitive decline in the elderly  volunteers who ate the most carbs was a staggering 3.6 times more likely..

    Beef up your brain power

    Now of course, as I always remind you, this kind of study doesn't show us cause and effect. Instead it shows an association. In other words, it doesn't prove that carbs and sugars cause cognitive impairment, but instead shows us that they're associated with it. However, a strong association like this should be more than enough to get you to take a closer look at your eating habits. And it should be plenty to spur you to make some changes...before it's too late. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that these findings give you the go ahead to start loading up on tons of fried fatty foods. Remember, not all fats are created the same. You still need to make smart fat choices, like adding more healthy nuts, farm-fresh organic meats, and wild-caught fatty fish to your diet, if you don't want to risk damaging your health. And don't try to kick ALL sugar and carbs to the curb...your body needs both to function well. The real take aways here are to cut back on the carbs and sugars, bump up the healthy fats and proteins, and skip over the junk food aisle altogether. Your body...and your brain...will thank you.
  17. Study adds dementia risk to list of sleeping pill side effects

    Anxiety and sleep drugs drive up dementia risk

    I'm no psychic. Heck, I don't even own a crystal ball. And, no, I've never won the lottery on a hunch. But, I did make one prediction about seven months ago that's just come true. And that was that sometime in the future I would be warning you, once again, about the dangers of sleeping pills. That time is today. And today we’re talking about dementia risk. In that Guide to Good Health back in March, titled "Death by sleeping pill," Back in March, I explained that some sedatives used to treat anxiety and insomnia had been linked to an increased risk of cancer and early death. According to a study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), these prescription sleep pills--benzodiazepine drugs like zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and temazepam (Restoril)--could skyrocket a light user's risk (just 18 pills a year) of death by three and half times over non-users. And if you're a heavy user... upwards of 132 pills a year... you might want to start picking out a burial plot, because it turns out you may be five times more likely to die an early death than your non-using friends. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, the BMJ study turned up another frightening finding. The most frequent users of these anxiety and sleeping drugs were found to have 35 percent higher risk of developing a major cancer during the study period.

    Benzo's going from bad to worse

    Now, if these were the only bad reports that had ever surfaced about these drugs, I might not have ever made that prediction. But, as I'm sure you've already guessed, they weren't. A few years ago, if you were a reader of GTGH you learned about a published report that had analyzed the cases of 14,000 sedative users and found that they had a 36 percent greater risk of dying. And it was folks over 55 that faced the biggest risk. About a year before that I reported on the bizarre cases of sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep sex, and even sleep driving (yes, really) that were being linked to some of these pills. And, of course, benzodiazepine drugs are associated with an increased risk for falls in the elderly. In fact, one study found that the class of drugs that benzodiazepines belong to, psychotropic drugs, more than doubled the odds of falling for both elderly men and women.

    Dementia associated with anxiety drugs

    Now, a NEW study in BMJ is linking those same benzodiazepines to yet another risk. (Not to mention making my prediction come true.) And if you have passed through the spring chicken years, and are now happily among the mature set, then you're going to want to pay especially close attention to this latest finding on dementia risk According to researchers, if you're a senior taking a benzodiazepine you're a staggering 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who have never taken the drugs. Let me repeat that...50 percent more likely to develop dementia. And that dire figure was arrived at after they had adjusted for the things that we already know can affect brain function like high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, living alone, and age. The authors of the study called the findings, if true, "A substantial health concern." And they warned that we still need to explore whether these drugs are associated with an increased risk of dementia for those under 65 as well. I agree. But it also seems pretty clear that regardless of whether you're over or under the age of 65, the potential side effects of these drugs should already be of concern to you. If you're STILL on a benzodiazepine for insomnia or anxiety, for goodness sakes make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible and ask for help getting off of them. Your brain health...or your life...may literally depend on it. To reduce anxiety you might want to give fish oil a try instead. One study found that it can slash anxiety symptoms by 20 percent in three months. (Just be sure to take a mixed-tocopherol vitamin E with it to keep the fish oil from breaking down too quickly.) Also, red clover has been shown to be an effective anxiety reducer for post-menopausal women. And if it's sleep troubles that you're struggling with, I had some tips for skipping the sedatives and getting a good night's sleep in this link .
  18. Study links butter flavor diacetyl and Alzheimer’s risk

    It's not the first time I've warned you about the dangers lurking in an "innocent" bag of microwave popcorn, and it probably won't be my last. I'm talking about the dangerous link between diacetyl (DA) and Alzheimer’s risk. DA is a food flavoring ingredient that's supposed to add "butter flavor" not only to microwave popcorn but to countless other snack foods, baked goods, candies, and margarines that are lining your grocery store shelves. But, as it turns out, that fake "buttery goodness" isn't all it's adding to your food. Researchers have uncovered evidence that DA ramps up the damage that beta-amyloid--the abnormal brain chemical that's linked with Alzheimer's disease--can do to your brain (more on that in a moment).

    From popcorn lung to popcorn brain

    You may have heard of diacetyl before. It occurs naturally in small amounts in cheese, butter, and fruits, as well as some fermented drinks like beer and wine. But studies first started linking the manufactured version of the chemical to the respiratory problems of farm workers from microwave popcorn packaging plants back in 2005. And later in 2007 a leading lung expert, Cecile Rose--head of the division of environmental and occupational health sciences at National Jewish Medical and Research Center--asserted in letters to the FDA, CDC, and the EPA that a patient of his may have contracted a rare and deadly lung disease from inhaling the fumes of microwave popcorn. Because of the very real dangers of "popcorn lung"--or bronchiolitis obliterans--the United States Department of Labor eventually issued guidelines for companies whose workers are exposed regularly to the hazardous chemical. And in the wake of the scandal several popcorn manufacturers announced plans to eventually remove DA from their microwave popcorn. How many have actually done that is unclear. But what is clear is that this chemical is still approved as a food additive and it's still being used regularly in foods you probably have in your pantry or fridge at this very moment. And, unfortunately it's not just "popcorn lung" you need to worry about it's "popcorn brain" too.

    Raising your risk for dementia

    According to the study observing the link between dementia, diacetyl and Alzheimer’s published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, DA easily zips right through the critical safety net that protects the brain known as the blood-brain barrier. Once past that hurdle DA, which physically looks very much like the substance that causes the dangerous clumping that we see with Alzheimer's, starts to do its own damage. And like that other substance it too triggers beta-amyloid clumping. But it even goes one step further by blocking glyoxalase, a protein that protects nerve cells in the brain, from doing its job. Now, of course, it's the workers in the factories that produce and use diacetyl that are at the most risk for DC-induced dementia. But the unanswered question is, "What is this stuff doing to the rest of us?" Let's face it, there's so much we don't know about this disease that we can't afford to ignore any risk factors that are uncovered, especially regarding artificial diacetyl and Alzheimer’s risk. So if you haven't already ditched the microwave popcorn, put the bag down now. (Even if your favorite brand happens to be DC free you still have the PFOA to deal with.) And just to be on the safe side anything with fake butter flavoring should be permanently removed from your shopping list. That processed junk wouldn't be good for you even if the artificial diacetyl weren't in it.
  19. Youthful tasks may literally reverse brain aging

    Secret to staying young found in a bee hive?

    Wish you still had the brainpower of your youth instead of the brain aging of your golden years? Longing for the quick recall and sharp mind of the teenager you once were? Well if so, join the club. Oh, and while you’re at it, quick, make like a bee... a honeybee that is... and then your wish might just become a reality. According to a joint team of researchers observing brain aging from Arizona State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, honeybees may very well hold the key to anti-aging. The study, published in the journal Experimental Gerontology, found that when older bees take on tasks that are normally reserved for the youngsters, they literally reverse the aging of their brains.

    Slow brain aging down to crawl

    You might be surprised to learn that bees lead a pretty rough life. In fact, compared to ours, a bee's life is pretty much all work and no play...and then it's over in a flash. Apparently, after spending a short time in the comfort of the bee nursery they head out to begin their lives as working adult bees gathering food for the colony and getting old really fast while doing it. In fact, within just two weeks of becoming an adult, honeybees are oldsters with their very own version of wrinkles...worn wings and hairless bodies...and an elderly brain to boot. At two weeks old a foraging honeybee typically has lost the ability to learn new things. But, in contrast, the nanny bees that stay in the hive to tend the young don't seem to age at nearly the same rate. On the contrary, according to researchers their brains keep firing on all cylinders...staying young and vibrant as long as they tend to the needs of the larvae. And well, like most scientists, the researchers at ASU and NULS weren't satisfied not knowing why there was such drastic difference in the bee brains. So they devised an experiment to trick the older foraging bees into doing the more social tasks inside the hive to see what would happen. Now, if you're wondering just how the heck you set about tricking a bee I can assure you I was wondering the same thing. But, it turns out that it's a lot easier than I thought. They simply removed all of the youthful nanny bees from the nest, leaving only the queen and babies. When the foraging bees arrived home and there were no nanny bees to be found that threw things into turmoil for a few days. The bees didn't seem to do as much for the next couple of days...instead hanging out close to the nest. But apparently during that time they were having a bee powwow "discussing" what to do next. And then some of the old bees returned to their foraging work and some of the old bees stayed home to care for the nest and larvae instead.

    The buzz on reversing brain aging

    And it's what happened next that is downright stunning. After just 10 days, around half of the older bees that stayed home to care for the hive and youngsters had significantly improved their ability to learn new things. In other words, they had literally reversed their brain aging! And this wasn't just a bunch of old bees feeling frisky because they were reliving their youth. No, according to the researchers those bees that were showing signs of reversing brain aging also had a physical change in two proteins in their brains. And the really exciting part is that we share one of those proteins...called Prx6...with bees. And we already know that Prx6 can help protect against dementia and Alzheimer's. Now, of course, the mainstream jumped right to talking about what kind of drugs we may be able to create to take advantage of these findings. But the bees certainly weren't on a drug! And besides anti brain-aging drugs would still be decades down the road anyway. So why not take a page out of the bee book and just start by acting younger? Add more "youthful" social activities to your agenda. And never use age as an excuse to not give something new a try. After all it might literally take minutes, hours, or even years off your brain. I'm not saying that you have to take up skydiving (although feel free if you want to give it a whirl), but why not snag some tickets to that hot new pop star's concert? Or maybe try taking up hiking or photography as a new hobby? The idea is that by acting more "like a kid"...just like those bees you might literally be keeping your brain younger longer. And heck, who wouldn't want that?
  20. The effects of high fructose corn syrup on your brain function

    How your diet is making you dumb

    Put down that can of Coke. Step away from that bag of kettle corn. And, whatever you do, don't take another bite of that Twinkie until you read this! You might be surprised what all those high-fructose sweets are doing to you. Sure, everyone knows that chowing down on too much processed sugar isn't good for you. But, according to the results of a recent study on the effects of high fructose corn syrup, all that sugar isn't just bad for your health it's also bad for your noggin. Yes, according to researchers at UCLA, that can of soda pop you’re downing as you read this may very well be making you stupid. And that's not all. According to those same scientists, bingeing on sugar can do its number on your thinker in as little as six weeks!

    Sugar slows your brain to a crawl

    The UCLA study, published in the Journal of Physiology, showed that a diet that's heavy in high fructose corn syrup... like the kind of sugar found in everything from applesauce to soft drinks these days... causes your brain to slow down to a crawl. And, naturally, a slow brain has trouble both with learning and remembering new things. Now, we already knew that too much fructose is bad for us. And I've been warning you about the effects of high fructose corn syrup, (HFCS) for years. (With all the processed foods we eat, the average American is scarfing down more than 40 pounds of this poison every year!) Research has shown us that HFCS, which is six times sweeter than natural cane sugar, plays a starring role in today's twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes. And, experts tell us, that a fructose-heavy diet contributes to the rising numbers of people being diagnosed with fatty liver. But this is the first time it's been shown to hamper our brain function.

    Omega-3s are brain food

    But not all of the findings were bad. The UCLA researchers did have some good news to share as well. And if you're a regular Guide to Good Health reader it's news that's bound to put a smile on your face, since you're probably already a fan of the stuff. According to the scientists, omega-3 fatty acids can help head off some of the memory and learning damage side effects of high fructose corn syrup. The researchers studied two groups of rats for six weeks. The first group received a fructose solution in place of their drinking water. The second group received the fructose solution, but also got omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and DHA. The rats that received the fructose solution alone failed miserably at solving a maze that should have been familiar to them. They were much slower than the omega-3 rats, and scans showed that their little rat brains simply weren't firing as fast as they should be. (Brains require DHA for their synapses to function like they should.) The fructose-only rats also started to show signs of insulin resistance. This is important because, besides its role as blood-sugar cop, insulin is also vital to your brain. Insulin helps the cells in your brain transmit signals to one another. The researchers think that the insulin resistance made the rats poor maze solvers. And, just like those rats trying to solve the maze, the researchers think that a high-fructose diet can make us dim-witted too. The key to reversing this stupidity trend is to slash as much of this stuff out of our diets as we can. Giving up sodas and candy is an obvious first step. But because food manufacturers dump HFCS into just about everything these days... even non-sweet foods... it can add up anyway. Avoid eating processed foods whenever you can, and you will also avoid the negative effects of high fructose corn syrup. Make your own from-scratch meals with fresh organic ingredients instead. (They taste better anyway.) And when you do need to eat something from a package, be sure to check the label first. Oh, and don't forget to get plenty of brain-friendly omega-3s by eating more fish and taking a quality fish-oil supplement from a source you trust. And to learn more about what omega-3 fatty acids can do for your're brain is only the beginning... you can search through the back issues of my Guide to Good Health here.

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