Your grandparents probably knew “fish is brain food.” But not much else about sharpening your brain. Even doctors used to believe mental decline was inevitable with age. “It’s all part of growing older,” they told us.
Now we know better. Research uncovers new brain-boosting secrets all the time. If the media can make a sensational headline from these breakthroughs, then you may hear about them. But many others get very little attention.
Today, I’ll share five recent brain breakthroughs you may not have heard about.
#1 – A simple way to slow brain shrinkage.
Studies show most people suffer from “brain shrinkage” as they get older. This shrinkage is linked to memory problems and a loss of cognitive function. But what if you could block brain loss?
Research from Cambridge University suggests you can.
Scientists there looked at 527 adults aged 20 to 87. They discovered that being overweight or obese in middle age was linked to greater loss of brain matter. In fact, in the worst cases, obesity aged adult’s brains by an extra 10 years.
This suggests dropping excess weight in middle age may help you stay sharper longer.
#2 – A brain-boosting workout
German doctors looked at the effect of exercise on a group of retirees’ brains. They discovered riding an exercise bike for 30 minutes just 3 times a week made a big difference.
First, they compared levels of the chemical choline in the brains of their volunteers. Then half the volunteers took up the cycling regimen for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, choline levels in the cyclers stabilized at lower levels than in the non-cyclers.
This is important, because the breakdown of brain cells raises choline levels. Just cycling three times a week appeared to slow the age-related breakdown of brain cells.
And here’s even more good news…
#3 – Everyday Activities Preserve Gray Matter
A team at Rush University published a groundbreaking study in February. To begin with, the volunteers in this study were 81 on average. That’s 10 years older than most similar studies.
And the results weren’t based on reported activity levels. The Rush team used a device called an accelerometer to measure actual activity levels. So their results are much more precise.
What did they find? Everyday activities help preserve brain matter. Activities like walking the dog, gardening, or doing housework.
The Rush team showed – even at 80 – staying active can help keep you sharper. And you don’t have to be a marathoner to do it.
Just shut off the TV, get out of your chair, and move.
On the other side of the coin…
#4 – Don’t Ignore the Blues
Australian scientists compared 7,199 healthy adults to 1,728 who suffered from depression. They found seriously depressed adults showed greater shrinkage in the hippocampus. That’s an area of the brain closely linked to memory and learning.
The study also found that dealing with major depression early on could ease the shrinkage problem.
While drugs are often used to treat depression, they’re not necessarily the only way to ease a recurring case of the blues. For example, physical activity has been shown to combat depression.
And, as we already noted, it also helps preserve brain matter.
Finally, Let’s see how to eat your way to a bigger brain.
#5 – Food Choices Can Shrink Your Brain
As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, realized this some 23 centuries ago. “Let food be your medicine,” he wrote, “and medicine be your food.”
When it comes to your brain, that’s especially good advice.
Australian scientists compared people’s diets to the size of their brains’ memory centers. What they found was bad news for most Americans.
Because junk food leads to a smaller hippocampus – a key center of learning and memory. On the other hand, nutrient-dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – lead to a bigger hippocampus.
In other words, the “Standard American Diet” is bad for your brain. But diets like the Mediterranean Diet could help you hold on to more brain cells – and keep you sharper.
Swap that burger and fries for sole and asparagus, and you just may remember that meal a whole lot longer.
So What’s the Take-Away Here?
It’s all good news. Because these studies say you can have a remarkable amount of control over your mental future.
How you eat… how active you are… and how well you control your weight could help you control how sharp you are 10, 20, or 30 years from now.
And, as the Rush University study showed, it’s never too late to get started. You just have to start…
- Move more. Create a garden in your front yard. Take a daily after-dinner stroll. Volunteer.
- Don’t let depression fester. Deal with the blues as soon as you feel them. Talk to your doctor. Get moving. Plan healthier meals. These easy steps can all help.
- Make healthier food choices. Have seconds on vegetables instead of starches. Swap out sugary desserts in favor of fruit. Eat oily fish twice a week.
Nobody can remove all their risk of mental decline. But these studies show you have a lot of control. And why wouldn’t you want to stay mentally sharp as long as you can?
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Ronan, L., et al, “Obesity associated with increased brain age from midlife,” Neurobiol Aging. Nov 2016; 47: 63-70.
Matura, S., et al, “Effects of aerobic exercise on brain metabolism and grey matter volume in older adults,” Transl Psychiatry. Jul 2017; 7(7): e1172.
“Everyday Activities Associated With More Gray Matter in Brains of Older Adults,” Rush University. Feb 13, 2018.
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