Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More good news on preventing mental decline....

Today's Post:  Tuesday, 2-11-2014

Recently Dr David Perlmutter author of the new Grain Brain book and the older Better Brain book listed an article he posted to Facebook.

There are two parts of your brain that are critical to retain your ability to store and retrieve memory that can gradually shrink as you get older.  If that happens you get mental decline and your abilities shrink too!

One is the white matter that we now know acts like telephone wires once did for land lines and connects the hippocampus where memories and the software to input and retrieve them is located.

So if your white matter drops too much, the memories may be there still but your ability to contact them may not be.

The second one is the hippocampus itself which acts as a memory controller and has some storage.

We already knew that exercise that is at least moderately vigorous releases BDNF a growth hormone that grows new brain and nerve cells and that people who do no exercise at all have gradual shrinkage of their white matter.

Clearly to avoid or reverse that doing exercises that robustly release BDNF most days of every week is protective of your white matter and might even restore some.

But the article Dr Perlmutter posted has research with even better news:  Exercise actually causes your hippocampus to grow in addition!

That can not only prevent mental decline, it can help reverse it after it has begun!

Here are the key quotes from his article and after it I’ll comment.

Growth Hormone For Your Brain – Now Available Without a Prescription!

We’ve all come to accept the notion that our brain will continue to shrink as we age. And nowhere is this decline more impactful than in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, one of the primary brain areas that’s first to decline in Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers measuring the size of the hippocampus using MRI scans demonstrate a clear correlation between shrinkage of the hippocampus and declining cognitive function. So, at least as it relates to the hippocampus, size does matter.

Challenging the status quo notion that loss of hippocampal function is inevitable is new and exciting research showing that we have the potential to actually grow new cells in this vitally important area of the brain, expanding the hippocampus in size and enhancing memory function.

The growth of new cells in the brain, neurogenesis, is enhanced under the influence of a specific protein called BDNF. And while there is no pharmaceutical approach to increasing BDNF, animal research has long recognized that aerobic exercise causes a robust increase in BDNF levels and as a consequence increases both the growth of new cells in the hippocampus as well as increase in memory.

But while the animal research has long confirmed the relationship between aerobic exercise and the growth of new brain cells, this relationship has been only recently demonstrated to occur in humans.

Neuroscientist Kirk Erikson and his research team at the University of Pittsburgh publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science studied a group of 120 adults over a one-year span. Half the group was given a stretching program to perform 3 times each week while the other half engaged in 3 days of aerobics.

After one year, the 2 groups were evaluated looking at 3 parameters. First, using MRI scans, the change in size of the hippocampus was calculated. Second, serum measurements before and after the trial were measured. And finally, the study actually measured memory function at the beginning and end of the trial.

The results were breathtaking. While the group doing the stretching program manifested a decline in memory, hippocampal size and BDNF levels, the aerobics group showed not only improvement in memory, but an actually increase in the size of the hippocampus accompanied by an increase in their blood levels of BDNF. The authors concluded:

These results clearly indicate that aerobic exercise is neuroprotective and that starting an exercise regimen later in life is not futile for either enhancing cognition or augmenting brain volume.
What’s more, research just published several weeks ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that blood levels of BDNF almost perfectly predict future risk for developing dementia as long as 10 years in the future.

The results of these studies have huge implications. There is no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and yet, simple aerobic exercise can turn on the genetic machinery to manufacture BDNF, the brain’s “growth hormone,” creating new neurons in the brain’s memory center and actually improving memory. Despite the lack of any pharmaceutical development to enhance this process, you have direct control of your BDNF levels and thus the fate of your brain.

You can increase your BDNF levels and enhance the growth of new brain cells and memory.
Here’s how:

Engage in regular aerobic exercise. I recommend 20 minutes per day, 6 days each week.”

“….The omega-3 DHA, like aerobic exercise, has been shown to activate the genes that turn on BDNF production. So take a supplement that contains DHA. DHA is available in fish oils as well as algae-derived (suitable for vegetarians). While krill oil is popular, the DHA content is typically only 10% of fish or algae-based products.”

My comments:

1.  Other research has shown that regular brisk walks do have this effect and that people who take them most days a week avoid the shrinkage of their white matter.

However, more vigorous exercises can be even better in several ways.

Higher intensity cardio for much briefer periods and superslow strength training each release more growth hormones than brisk walking and likely release more BDNF too. 

Even better, they can be much easier to fit into your schedule. There are days I have time for my 4 to 6 minute cardio that I would not have 20 minutes to walk.  And, I can do those exercises at home in weather too dark and rainy or too hot and sunny to walk in.

But there are even more reasons to use them instead of or in addition to walking that are brain protective!

Dr Perlmutter’s new book shows conclusively as does other similar research that even lower levels of high blood sugar cause Alzheimer’s like harm to your brain and higher levels or type 2 diabetes is very harmful even more than low levels.

But besides mostly eating health OK protein foods and oils and lots of vegetables & very little grain or sugar and some supplements, there is an extremely effective antidote for high blood sugar and insulin resistance.

This antidote is doing the same higher intensity cardio for much briefer periods and superslow strength training that time efficiently produces lots of BDNF!

Lastly, improving the power of your heart and improving your blood flow and the health of your blood vessels and the resulting heart attack risk measures that doing this causes also prevents vascular dementia and other kinds of brain decline caused by low blood circulation.

And THAT agent is doing the same higher intensity cardio for much briefer periods and superslow strength training that time efficiently produces lots of BDNF!

So now we know this kind of exercise prevents mental decline 3 effective ways!

2.  Eating wild caught fish NOT too high in mercury two or more days a week and taking a purified omega 3 supplement and a DHA supplement each day together ensure you get plenty of DHA.

If you do that, taking krill oil in addition may enhance the effect according to one source I saw.  But that only works for this purpose if you add it to the first set of things.  Dr Perlmutter is correct that it is not high in DHA by itself.

3.  Also besides eating very little if any grain, ingesting virtually no oils like corn and soy and canola that are high in omega 6 oil, and very little animal fats from animals fed grains reduces the amount of omega 3 oils needed to lower inflammation enough to have brain protective and heart protective effects.

Extra virgin olive oil and protein foods from wild caught or only naturally fed animals both avoid that problem.  The Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables and extra virgin olive oil and nuts derives much of its legendary and tested health protection from this source.

Unlike vegetable oils high in omega 6 or butter high in omega 6 from cattle fed almost only grains -- nuts and extra virgin olive oils contain monosaturated omega 9 oils that do NOT interfere with omega 3 oils like DHA or boost inflammation.

That diet has been shown to be both heart and brain protective.   

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