Staying Mentally Fit and Healthy into Old Age with the Right Nutrition

Recent research suggests that the classic Western diet with its many industrially-processed, fatty foods causes an increasing number of depressive and anxiety disorders. Unhealthy eating promotes inflammatory processes in the body and may contribute to a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh with 247 participants showed that with a diet consisting mainly of tuna, salmon, olive oil, avocado and sweet potatoes, the participants showed far fewer depressive symptoms than the other group of test subjects, most of whom preferred industrially-processed foods.

More and more neuroscientists are recognizing the complex ways in which our food intake is related to brain health. A large number of studies have already been conducted and the list of foodstuffs that are supposed to be the right “food” for our brain is getting longer and longer – fish and the Omega 3 fatty acids, for example, are at the top of the list when it comes to preventing psychoses and depression. Lactic acid bacteria in fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut appear to help alleviate anxiety and worry, while foods rich in antioxidants such as green tea and fruit can help keep dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay. One or two comparative studies are of course still required to clarify and supplement these findings. However, the most certain evidence to date is that the so-called Mediterranean diet of fruit, vegetables, fish, lean meat, olive oil and a glass of red wine every now and then is refreshment for the brain. In Western cuisine, on the other hand, frozen pizza, packaged soups and canned food are often on the table. According to a representative survey by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, 20% of German households cook their own meals “actually never” or “at most once a week” – and 47% of German men and 22% of German women eat meat every day, which the experts also regard as being problematic.

In a study published in 2015, scientists even found evidence that poor nutrition “shrinks” the brain. The psychiatrist Felice Jacka, together with colleagues from Deakin University and the University of Melbourne in Australia, analyzed data from a longitudinal Australian study on mental health. At the start of the study, the subjects were between 60 and 64 years old, gave detailed information about their eating habits and underwent a brain scan. Their brains were scanned again four years later, and the focus was on the hippo-campus – which is considered the center of our memory. We also know that the hippo-campus shrinks with increasing age. The study results clearly showed that the left hippo-campus had become much smaller in the test persons who preferred hamburgers, steaks, french fries and soft drinks and declined fruit and vegetables, compared to those of test persons of the same age group who mostly preferred Mediterranean food.
The researchers are still not quite sure exactly which mechanisms are behind these findings. According to science, inflammatory processes could be one of the triggering factors. A high sugar content diet in particular promotes metabolic changes and inflammation in the body and several studies have shown that these inflammatory processes play an important role in brain diseases.

Epidemiologist Martha Morris and her team at Rush University in Chicago established similar relationships between nutrition (Mediterranean and low-salt) and cognitive decline in old age. In the observational study, 960 older people were asked about their eating habits and their mental fitness was regularly checked. Five years later, participants who said they often ate vegetables, berries, nuts and olive oil and little fried, fast food and red meat were less frequently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In the mental test, they also scored as well as subjects who were 7.5 years younger, but who had eaten unhealthy food.

Conclusion: A healthy diet combined with exercise and mental activity can help keep the “grey matter” fit longer in old age.

Silvia Bürkle
Metabolic Balance

Source:
1.    Jacka, F.N. et al.: Western Diet is Associated with a Smaller Hippocampus: A Longitudinal Investigation. In: BMC Medicine 13,215, 2015
2.    Morris, M.C. et al.: MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimers’s disease. In: Alzheimers’s & Dementia 11, P. 1007-1014, 2015
3.    Sarris, J. et al: Nutritional Medicine as Mainstream in Psychiatry. In: Lancet Psychiatry 2, P. 271-274, 2015

Metabolic Balance® Wants You To Eat 10 Cancer Fighting Foods (part 1 of 2)

A healthy body fights off disease and has the ability to protect the body from illness.  Here are a list of cancer fighting foods you should add to your Metabolic Balance®d diet.

  1. Garlic –  Everything in moderation.  If you regularly eat garlic you are less likely to develop digestiv organ cancers such as esophagus, stomach and colon.  Experts are not sure how much you need to digest but a clove is a good guess or between 2 to 5 grams (Estimate by the world health association.) It is thought that protective effects from garlic arise from its antibacterial properties or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances. Warning: Garlic acts as a natural blood thinner and should be avoided by pregnant women, people about to undergo surgery, and people taking blood thinners.
  2. Berries – The idea of berries as anticarcinogens began in the 1980s, when Stoner discovered that ellagic acid, found in many fruits and vegetables, inhibited the tumors. He then found that berries contained high amounts of ellagic acid, and that black raspberries in particular had more of this compound than all of the other berries he surveyed. The compounds in black raspberries slow the growth rate of pre-malignant cancerous cells, and they stimulate those cells to die. Here are some Benefits of black rasberries:
    1. High overall level of phenolic compounds compared to other berries. Ellagic acid, gallic acid and rutin contribute to the health benefits of black raspberries.
    2. Anthocyanins in the berries work as antioxidants that help fight free radical damage in the body. The anthocyanin level of black raspberries is 214-589 mg/100g.
    3. The Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity level of black raspberries is 77 µmoles /TE/g which is about three times higher than blueberries.
    4. In vitro studies show that extracts of raspberries and blackberries may slow or reverse the growth of breast, cervical, colon, oral and esophageal cancers.
    5. Scientists from Ohio State University are now conducting human clinical trials into the effects of black raspberries on colon and esophageal cancer in humans.
  3. Tomatoes – 
    • Tomatoes – Outstanding antioxidant with rich a concentration of lycopene. Researchers have found an important connection between lycopene and bone health. A study was designed in which tomato and other dietary sources of lycopene were removed from the diets of postmenopausal women for a period of 4 weeks, to see what effect lycopene restriction would have on bone health. At the end of 4 weeks, women in the study started to show increased signs of oxidative stress in their bones and unwanted changes in their bone tissue.  In recent studies, researchers are looking into how tomatoes prevent cancer and protect your bones.
    • Tomatoes are best when eaten cookedAlthough the assumption is that fresh fruit and veg always have the edge over cooked or processed, canned tomatoes prove this isn’t always the case. Canned tomatoes are a better source of lycopene because the canning process breaks down some of the touch cell walls, releasing the lycopene, which makes it easier for the body to absorb.

  4. Broccoli, Cabbage & Cauliflower –These 3 vegetables can protect your cells from those crazy free radicals. They may also protect you from cancer causing chemicals and slow the growth of tumors.  Remember our Cauliflower pizza crust? This week may be a good time to try making it. Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It also provides choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and magnesium.
  5. Green Tea – Catechins in tea help prevent cancer by keeping free radicals from damaging cells and possibly reducing tumor cell growth. Both green and black teas contain catechins so it is wise to add some tea to your anti cancer diet.

Go here for part 2 of 2

Photo of tomato by Mr. TinDC