It turns out the key to keeping your brain firing on cylinders as you get older may have been in your kitchen all along.
But this time I’m not talking about a superfood you should be putting ON the menu. Rather, it’s a food you should steer clear of instead.
This should be easy, though—these are foods you should already have banned from your fridge.
Heavy carb eaters around twice as likely to have cognitive impairment
Research from the Mayo Clinic finds that eating a lot of carbohydrates and sugar puts you at higher risk for mild cognitive impairment as you age. That translates to problems with memory, thinking, and judgment. Mild cognitive decline is also considered an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
The study involved 940 people between the ages of 70 and 89. All of these folks were clear of cognitive problems at the beginning of the study. Within four years, though, 200 of them were starting to show signs of mild cognitive impairment.
The study participants who ate the most carbs were about twice as likely to have mild cognitive impairment compared to those who were relatively carb-free. The highest sugar intake was associated with being 1.5 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.
But, it’s when fat, protein, sugar, and carbs were considered together, that things got really scary. Then, the people with the highest carb intake were 3.6 times more likely to develop cognitive decline.
Could cognitive decline be on your menu tonight?
The scientists think that the raised risk that comes from carbs and sugar could be because carbohydrates affect glucose and insulin metabolism. They point out that sugars provide fuel for the brain—so you shouldn’t cut them out completely. But too much sugar can actually keep the brain from using that fuel properly. It’s basically the same effect you see with type 2 diabetes.
But be sure that when you start cutting those carbs and sugars that you’re replacing them with good fats and healthy proteins. People with the highest intake of fat were 42 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than people who ate the least. And those in the group with the highest intake of protein were 21 percent less likely.
But keep in mind some people develop depression when first making the switch to a low-card diet. This is because carbs allow the amino acid L-tryptophan to penetrate your brain. And L-tryptophan, of course, is the amino acid that triggers the “feel good” hormone serotonin.
But the solution is simple. Just try a L-tryptophan supplement, 1,500 milligrams twice daily with whatever carbs you are still eating. If you find the tryptophan makes you a tad tired (think post-turkey-dinner stupor) you can take all 3,000 milligrams at bedtime instead.
“High-Carb Diet in Old Age Linked to Mental Decline,” Medline Plus (www.nlm.nih.gov)
Ms. O’Brien has written for Nutrition & Healing, Healthier Talk and a variety of other natural and alternative health outlets. She believes in the power of natural medicine and her goal is to open people’s eyes to the benefits of alternative and integrative medicine.
Christine is passionate about helping people help themselves without having to turn to harsh drugs or invasive surgeries.
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