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

Rebalancing During the Holiday Season

Not everyone wants to wait for the new year to get back on track with metabolic balance.  If you overdid it on Thanksgiving and you want to start rebalancing, let your coach know!

Here are a six tips for rebalancing:

  1. Don’t tell anyone.  This is the holiday season and many people will not understand why you are “sacrificing” on food.  You do not need to waste energy explaining. Most people will not notice that you are not snacking or eating their holiday cookies.  If they do notice, just say that you’re working on eating mindfully and change the topic to mindful living.  If you need a refresher about mindful living, visit our posts about living a mindful life on metabolic balance.
  2. Clean out your kitchen of any foods not on your plan and donate them to a food kitchen. Do not eat them. If they belong to your family members, put them in tupperware on a lower shelf so that they are not in your face when you open the cabinet.
  3. Plan your menu for the next two weeks.  Keep life simple.  Create soups like Zucchini Basil Soup and Turkey Pho Soup or make a cauliflower pizza crust and avoid recipes with lots of ingredients or long preparation times and oil.
  4. Figure out how you are going to drink your water.  Buy a special water bottle and a filter system if tap water doesn’t taste good to you. Do not add flavouring to your water.
  5. Get plenty of sleep.  You are taking care of your body during a rebalancing and your body needs time to fix itself.  Sleep is the time when your body builds up the immune system and gets everything back on track.
  6. Do you have a smartphone?  Download a silly game to play when you have the urge to snack on something.  There is a no snacking rule with metabolic balance but your brain does not understand this.  The impulse is there and you need to work your way through it and offer yourself an alternative that is easy to implement.

Educating Yourself About metabolic balance®, Your Body and Your Health

metabolic balance® wants you to educate yourself about what your body needs to be healthy.  Through

metabolic balance® coaching and the metabolic balance® rules, you will learn what it feels like to be hungry and what it means to be hungry and why hunger isn’t bad. During the four phases of metabolic balance®, you will learn how to eat what your body needs to stay healthy and how some cravings are important to follow. This learning process never ends for you or for your coach.

metabolic balance® coaches in the United States have the opportunity to continuously learn about nutrition and the science behind metabolic balance® so they can provide you with up to date studies and advances in nutritional science.   Much of the metabolic balance® coaching program is available online for coaches to learn through webinars and online chats.
If you would like to educate yourself about metabolic balance, we have a book on Amazon that you can read or you can reach out and talk with a metabolic balance coach. If you are in the San Francisco area, our reception/lecture in October is an excellent time to dive in and discuss metabolic balance with our US coaches, executive staff and with other people who have gone through the program.  The reception is by reservation and tickets are available through Eventbrite.

Time to Switch off the TV and Hit the Books

School is in session for millions of students around the world and we encourage you to hit the books even if you left the classroom years ago. Eating the right foods helps your mind but you must also work the brain to keep it healthy.

  • According to this article, “It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially…”
  • Cognitive exercised can produce lasting results.  According to this article, people who were provided were training were still seeing positive results five years later.
  • Learn German to improve your aging brain and read all the metabolic balance cookbooks. If German isn’t the challenge you want to tackle, try another foreign language. According to the BBC, learning a second language has positive effects on the brain with the strongest effects seen in general intelligence and reading.
  • Lastly, below is a video discussing language and other cognitive processes. (Geeky video worth watching)

If you want to take a challenging and free course online, you can try to learn coding at the code academy.  Coding is a language which will be challenging to learn and will offer you a valuable skill for the current workforce environment.  If you want to learn a spoken language, you can try Thai or maybe Cantonese. (Links to more language can be found here.)

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Below is an academic lecture about language and cognitive processes (Very geeky and long but worth listening to if you want to know more about this topic.)