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- Your Plate May Hold the Key to Alzheimer’s Saturday May 23rd, 2015
Healthy eating can help you stay at an ideal weight and stave off diabetes and heart disease. Now, there’s more and more evidence that a heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet — and it may even prevent or slow dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies show that people with the healthiest eating habits have lower risks for those problems and a decline in thinking skills. Some suggest that people who already have a mild decline in thinking abilities – which can be a forerunner to dementia — might slow or stop its progress through good nutrition.
“Many researchers believe that if we had a really potent diet, we could help slow Alzheimer’s down,” says Nancy Emerson Lombardo, PhD, an investigator at Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “In all the different things that researchers are looking at, maybe we can find the right combination.”
What’s in a ‘Brain Diet’?
Studies show that the Mediterranean diet, DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension), and the MIND diet — a hybrid of the other two — benefit the brain.
“All these diets are high in fruits and vegetables, most of them are high in nuts and legumes, most of them recommend whole grains instead of refined grains,” says Heidi Wengreen, RD, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at Utah State University.
These diets also emphasize fish, poultry, and seeds. Most of the fat in the Mediterranean diet comes from olive oil, an unsaturated fat that doesn’t raise cholesterol the way saturated fat does. A study out this week found that the Mediterranean diet with olive oil and nuts improved thinking skills in seniors.
Brain-healthy diets also include “moderate” amounts of wine. That means up to one drink per day for women and up to two for men. The Mediterranean diet is low on dairy, eggs, and red meat — the occasional dairy is usually low-fat cheese or yogurt. DASH emphasizes low-fat or fat-free dairy and cutting back on sodium. The MIND diet pulls foods from each of these diets that were already proven to benefit the brain in other studies.
“There’s convincing evidence that green leafy vegetables in particular are important for the brain, so we specified almost a daily serving of green leafy vegetables. We include one or more servings per day of other vegetables,” says Martha C. Morris, ScD, who developed the MIND diet with her colleagues at Rush Medical Center in Chicago. The diet also recommends berries, rather than fruit in general, because of evidence that says berries support brain health.
These diets steer people away from added sugar and salt, and saturated fat, as well as processed foods, because those can be high in all three.
Lombardo developed the Memory Preservation Nutrition Program. It pulls foods from other diets that have proven perks like the MIND diet does.
Some researchers have called Alzheimer’s disease “type 3 diabetes.”
Diabetes develops when the body becomes insulin-resistant. Insulin helps sugar, specifically glucose, enter muscle, fat, and liver cells to give them energy. When the body is insulin-resistant, glucose builds up in the bloodstream rather than getting to the cells. Eventually this can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The brain needs energy from glucose, too. But type 2 diabetes may make the brain insulin-resistant as well. Tissue damage, mental decline, and early signs of Alzheimer’s can develop in brains of people that have insulin resistance.
“High-sugar diets raise your risk for developing diabetes, which increases your risk for developing Alzheimer’s,” says Suzanne Craft, PhD, a professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Eating too many simple carbohydrates and simple sugars will harm your brain, she says.
How Do Brain Diets Work?
Research suggests foods in these diets can reduce things linked to Alzheimer’s like inflammation and plaque buildup in the brain. No one knows for sure whether certain foods or nutrients are key to the benefits or whether a mix of many nutrients is what helps.
Many With Alzheimer’s Aren’t Told of Diagnosis by Doctor: Report
“Various nutrients most likely block different pathways to Alzheimer’s,” Lombardo says.
Inflammation is one pathway to Alzheimer’s. Too much inflammation — a response from your body’s immune system — is linked to chronic diseases. In a study that followed more than 1,200 adults over age 65, those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest levels of a protein in their blood linked to inflammation. Their risk of getting Alzheimer’s during the 4-year period was 34% lower than their peers who didn’t follow the diet.
“Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet — from the fish, seeds, nuts, and olive oil — are anti-inflammatory,” Lombardo says.
The Mediterranean diet and others like it push anti-inflammatory foods and cut out inflammatory ones. The typical Western diet’s lack of variety and high levels of sugar, salt, fat, and processing increase inflammation.
Oxidative stress is also a likely player in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It happens when the body is unable to stop the damaging effects of toxins. Brain-healthy diets are high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as blueberries and spinach, that can counter oxidative stress. These foods may prevent the buildup of plaque that collects in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. In lab tests on mice or cells, substances in olive oil, berries, plums, grapes, walnuts, and apricots have helped prevent this plaque buildup.
Herbs and spices may also lower inflammation and oxidative stress. DASH is high in herbs and spices, so you won’t miss the salt. Turmeric could help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, research suggests. Cinnamon has reduced brain plaque found in Alzheimer’s disease and helped reverse mental decline in animal studies of the disease. In one study, 30 mg of saffron per day was as effective as donepezil, a prescription drug that helps against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
These benefits may come together to prevent the brain from shrinking as we age. In a recent study, older adults who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had a higher brain volume than their peers.
Ongoing research continues to zero in on specific foods that might help prevent dementia. Current studies are exploring coconut oil, blueberries, turmeric, tomato extract, and red wine extract, among other foods.
While some scientists search for the ideal diet, others look for the best combo of lifestyle habits. Their studies, too, have shown that a whole set of healthy choices can prevent the loss of thinking skills. In a large study of more than 1,200 people, those who completed a 2-year program involving diet, physical and mental exercise, and social activity did better than their peers on a test of thinking skills afterward. The researchers are now planning a 7-year version of the study.
Other studies are testing the effects of exercise on long-term brain function. “Maybe it’s nutrition, plus increasing different types of exercise,” Lombardo says, “plus making sure you get your sleep, keep your mind active, and stay socially engaged.”
Heidi Wengreen, RD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Nutrition and Food Science, Utah State University, Logan, UT.
Martha C. Morris, ScD, Director, Section of Nutrition & Nutritional Epidemiology, Dept of Internal Medicine, Rush University, Chicago, Illinois.
Nancy Emerson Lombardo, Ph.D., investigator, Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Boston University, Boston, MA.
Suzanne Craft, PhD, Professor, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.
- Protein IS the secret to staving off hunger pangs: Snacking on nuts and seeds in the afternoon can help beat obesity Saturday May 23rd, 2015
Group of teenagers were given protein and soy-rich mid afternoon snacks
Staves off hunger and reduces likelihood of them eating high-fat foods
Experts also found protein improved mood and cognitive function
Snacking on protein and soy-rich foods in the afternoon helps stave off hunger and could therefore help in the battle against obesity, new research has revealed.
While the benefits have been well-documented in adults, researchers have shown the same can now be said of children’s diets.
Afternoon snacking, particularly on protein or soy-rich foods, reduces hunger pangs.
It also delays the need to eat while reducing the likelihood of gorging on unhealthy, fatty foods.
Dr Heather Leidy, from the University of Missouri, said: ‘Our research showed that eating high-protein snacks in the afternoon helps teenagers improve the quality of their diets as well as control appetite.
Teenagers who snack on protein or soy-rich snacks in the afternoon are less likely to eat fat-laden foods in the evening, researchers at the University of Missouri found
HOW TO BOOST YOUR PROTEIN AND SOY INTAKE
Roasted soy nuts
Pumpkin seeds are full of protein and can help stave off hunger
‘Standard meals tend to go to the wayside for kids this age – particularly from mid-afternoon to late evening – and many of the convenient ‘grab and go’ snacks are high in fat and sugar.
‘When kids eat high-protein snacks in the afternoon, they are less likely to eat unhealthy snacks later in the day, which is particularly important for kids who want to prevent unhealthy weight gain.’
To test the theory in teenagers, the researchers analysed a group of male and females aged 13 to 19 years old.
All the volunteers were classed as being either normal weight or overweight.
The researchers assessed how snacking the afternoon affected the teens’ appetite, drive to eat and food choices later in the day, and whether these were different in a group of teenagers who skipped eating snacks altogether.
The experts also measured how afternoon snacking affected teens’ cognitive performance and mood.
‘In addition to the appetite and satiety benefits, we found that when the teens ate the high-protein snacks, they incorporated more protein throughout the day and consumed less dietary fat,’ Dr Leidy said.
‘Thus, adding protein snacks in the afternoon could be a good strategy for individuals who are trying to eat more protein throughout the day.
‘In addition, we also found that the high-protein snacks improved certain aspects of mood and cognitive function.’
Those teenagers in the group permitted to snack were given a soy-protein pudding in the afternoon.
Dr Leidy said that although the specific pudding is not available to the public, similar high-quality protein sources should elicit similar benefits.
She said: ‘Health professionals increasingly are recommending that people eat more high-protein, plant-based foods like soy, which are high quality and tend to be inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
‘Our study demonstrated that the positive effects on appetite and satiety can be extended to consuming soy-protein products.’
The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Source: Daily Mail
- Chinese ‘Thunder God Vine’ Herbal Remedy Could Yield Obesity Treatment Saturday May 23rd, 2015
A compound found in the root of the thunder god vine, a plant used for centuries in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, might be a key to weight loss, a study suggests.
Researchers say mice given high doses of the compound known as Celestrol for a week ate 80 percent less food than mice not given the compound, and after 3 weeks lost 45 percent of their body weight compared with the untreated mice, who lost no weight.
And weight loss was from body fat, not lean mass, they report in the journal Cell.
The compound’s dramatic effect comes from its ability to greatly enhance the action of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, they explain.
The hormone’s effect has long been known, although efforts to harness that ability to improve weight loss have been unsuccessful.
Leptin, derived from fat cells, tells the brain when the body has sufficient fuel and energy. Researchers suspect that some people are insensitive to leptin, so those signals do not reach the brain even when leptin levels in the bloodstream increase.
That can lead to excessive food intake and obesity, the say.
“During the last two decades, there has been an enormous amount of effort to treat obesity by breaking down leptin resistance, but these efforts have failed,” says senior study author Umut Ozcan, a Harvard Medical School endocrinologist. “The message from this study is that there is still hope for making leptin work, and there is still hope for treating obesity.”
Analyzing a database of whole-genome gene expression profiles in human cells treated with molecules of various compounds showed Celastrol the most effective for producing a profile associated with improved leptin sensitivity in cells in the human body, the researchers said.
They emphasized caution should be exercised in any further research on the thunder god vine, suggesting toxicology studies and controlled clinical trials would be needed, since the plant’s leaves, flowers and roots are all toxic.
“Celastrol is found in the roots of the thunder god vine in small amounts, but the plant’s roots and flowers have many other compounds,” Ozcan says. “As a result, it could be dangerous for humans to consume thunder god vine extracts to lose weight.”
Still, the initial findings are sufficiently encouraging to merit more studies, he says.
“Celastrol is the first efficient leptin sensitizer and has a completely different mechanism of action than any other anti-obesity drug that has been reported to date,” Ozcan says.
It is used in traditional medicine as a treatment for fever, chills and swelling, and it also is being studied as a possible treatment for some skin disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.
Source: Tech Times
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