HCPLive Network

Food for Thought

It is important for physicians to discuss brain health with their patients, especially patients who are over the age of 40. Not only is it helpful for them to understand that keeping the brain active can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but also that eating the right “brain food” can be just as important. Most food fits the bill, but there are specific fruits, vegetables, and proteins that are better than the rest.

Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, professor of neurosurgery and physiological science and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center, has spent many years studying how food, exercise, and sleep affect the brain. “Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain,” Gómez-Pinilla said. There are certain foods that feature vitamins to help boost mood and brain power (almonds, sunflower seeds), enhance memory and thinking skills (green tea, pumpkin seeds, chocolate, broccoli), increase healthy blood flow for better brain function (avocados, cashews), and improve age-related brain function decline (strawberries, blueberries).

Gómez-Pinilla’s research focused on food high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, kiwi) and folic acid (orange juice, spinach, yeast). He found that omega-3 fatty acids can help improve learning and memory and fight against depression, schizophrenia, and dementia. In fact, these conclusions were proven upon reviewing the results from studies conducted in England and Australia that evaluated the effects omega-3 fatty acids had on school-aged children. “Children who had increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids performed better in school, in reading and in spelling and had fewer behavioral problems,” said Gómez-Pinilla. Folic acid is similar to omega-3 fatty acids because having adequate levels can prevent “cognitive decline and dementia during aging and enhancing the effects of antidepressants.” Additionally, results from a clinical trial found that taking a three-year folic acid supplementation “can help reduce the age-related decline in cognitive function.”

 


Additional Resources

 

7 nutrition tips for increasing brain power

20 super brain foods

Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function

Food for the Brain Conference 2008


How often do you discuss nutrition with your patients? Were you aware of the health benefits of the food mentioned in this article?

 

Further Reading
Researchers have manufactured a peptide aimed to block modified proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other conditions.
A team of researchers may have identified specific risk factors explaining the association between bipolar disorder and substance abuse among teens.
Patients diagnosed with thyroid disease often use it as an explanation or excuse for neuropsychiatric symptoms; this is a form of “labeling effect.”
The cannabis-based multiple sclerosis drug Sativex has been recommended for use in Wales, making it the first in the United Kingdom to do so. The drug awaits final approval from the government.
The association between obesity and subsequent dementia varies with the age at which obesity is first recorded, according to a study published online Aug. 20 in the Postgraduate Medical Journal.
Minor infections appear to have a strong, but short-lived, effect on pediatric stroke risk, according to a study published online Aug. 20 in Neurology.
A defined process is necessary to help physicians hire the right staff for their practice, according to an article published July 24 in Medical Economics.
More Reading