New and exciting research is revealing a strong connection between our mood and the various bacteria that live within our intestines. This is certainly a sobering notion. Think of it: the bacteria living within the digestive system are, to some degree, involved in determining whether we are happy, sad, anxious or even depressed.
In a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, researchers in the Netherlands explored the idea that changing the array of bacteria in the gut by giving a multispecies probiotic supplement could have an effect on mood. The study provided the probiotic to 20 healthy individuals, none of whom had a mood disorder, over a four week period. A similar group of 20 individuals received a placebo over the same period. At the conclusion of the study, both groups underwent an evaluation to determine their reactivity, in terms of cognitive function, to sad mood. This is a fairly standard research tool that assesses depression. Continue reading
The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association welcomed in the new year by publishing what will surely become a landmark study. Researchers announced the results of a clinical trial of vitamin E in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and their findings may well revolutionize our approach to treating Alzheimer’s, a disease affecting more than 5.4 million Americans.
The study looked at the effect of dietary supplementation using 2,000 international units of non-prescription vitamin E daily in a large group of elderly Alzheimer’s patients, and compared their results over an average of around 2.3 years to similar patients who received a placebo, a pharmaceutical (memantine), or a combination of memantine along with vitamin E.
The best results were found in the patients who received the vitamin E alone. In these patients, the annual rate of decline in functional performance was slowed by approximately 20%. Functional performance includes important day-to-day tasks like preparing meals, bathing, shopping and eating.
Brain Maker, as well as Grain Brain, places a focus on healthy fat consumption, which sometimes can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians. Frequently, questions come in about how to adapt this type of lifestyle for people who follow a vegan/vegetarian diet. The good news? It’s easy to customize the recommendations of Brain Maker to be vegan or vegetarian-friendly, and, even better, some of the most important foods in Brain Maker are already such!
Years ago, when I was in medical school, we were taught that humans lacked the ability to grow new brain cells. This was called the “central dogma” of brain physiology. Incredibly, the notion that the brain lacked the ability to grow new brain cells during adulthood persisted in medical education through the 1990s.
Nobel laureate Santiago Ramón y Caja was a Spanish pathologist and histologist and, based upon his work with the nervous system, he has been called the “father of neuroscience.” On the topic of regrowth of brain cells, this 19th century researcher is quoted as stating:
Once the development was ended, the founts of growth and regeneration of the axons and dendrites dried up irrevocably. In the adult centers, the nerve paths are something fixed, ended, and immutable. Everything may die, nothing may be regenerated. It is for the science of the future to change, if possible, this harsh decree.
Fortunately, the “science of the future” has arrived. It is now well accepted that brain cells do in fact continue to grow throughout one’s lifetime, and it just so happens that the area of the brain where this growth occurs is the brain’s memory center called the hippocampus. Obviously, this is very exciting news, especially for anyone concerned about failing memory or dementia in general.
As it turns out, the growth of new brain cells, a process called neurogenesis, is under the direction of a brain hormone, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF does several things in the brain that are helpful. It strengthens brain cells to increase their survival, it enhances the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other by enhancing the formation of synapses, and it actually induces the growth of new brain cells, as mentioned above.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association specialty journal JAMA Neurology in January 2014, researchers published a very compelling report in which they studied more than 2,000 adults who were free of dementia at the beginning of the study. They measured their BDNF level at the beginning of the study and then followed the group for approximately 10 years. They found that those individuals who had the highest BDNF levels at the beginning of the study had a risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that was less than half of those whose BDNF levels were low.
The authors concluded:
Higher serum BDNF levels may protect against future occurrence of dementia and AD. Our findings suggest a role for BDNF in the biology and possibly in the prevention of dementia and AD, especially in select subgroups of women and older and more highly educated persons.
What to study also described was that there are two powerful lifestyle factors that can lead to higher levels of BDNF. These include aerobic exercise, as well as reduction in calorie consumption.
While the idea that we could not grow new brain cells has certainly changed since I was in medical school, one thing that hasn’t changed is our lack of ability to treat dementia. Despite the vast amount of resources dedicated to Alzheimer’s research, there appears to be as yet, no cure in sight.
But look what the Journal of the American Medical Association is telling us. Higher levels of this brain protective hormone are associated with a reduced risk of getting Alzheimer’s in the first place. And you can raise your levels by simply cutting back on calories and adding in some aerobic exercise.
We’ve all grown up knowing that vitamin D is important for strong healthy bones. After all, that was the reason that labels on milk cartons stated that the product was “fortified with vitamin D.” But research now demonstrates that the role of vitamin D in human health and disease resistance is much more vast than we ever imagined. Even brain health is significantly affected by vitamin D!
ScienceDaily, a well-respected web site for health and other science related information, has published a review of research performed at Peninsula Medical School, the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan. The research collected data on close to 2000 adults, aged 65 years or older, and evaluated both cognitive function as well as vitamin D levels. The researchers clearly demonstrated that as vitamin D levels declined, so did brain function. In fact, those whose vitamin D levels were the lowest had double the risk of being diagnosed as cognitively impaired. Continue reading
Have you heard about kombucha? It seems like the drink of the moment right now, and deservedly so. A powerful fermented food that brings important probiotic strains to your gut, kombucha should absolutely have a place at your table.
And if you’re concerned about the sugar content in kombucha, you shouldn’t be. Watch today’s video to find out why, and to learn more about this important drink.
Most people wouldn’t be surprised to learn that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages would be associated with an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes (T2D). In fact, this association has been demonstrated in several well-respected studies. It would be hard to imagine that persistent exposure to such a high dose of refined sugar would not have consequences.
Even though consumers have become more aware of the association of sugar consumption with T2D (and weight gain as well for that matter), there has been a fairly dramatic increase in the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages. To be sure, it’s not just the health risks associated with sugar that have catapulted sales of diet drinks. Manufacturers of these products have dedicated incredible sums in the promotion of these products capitalizing in the misguided belief that they represent a better choice when compared to sugar sweetened drinks. They don’t.