There’s this old cartoon that’s been floating around for years. It’s a picture of a long-faced, slightly disheveled-looking, older businessman in a suit and tie.
Underneath him is a caption that reads, “There are three signs of old age. The first is memory loss. I forget the other two.”
A lot of us like to poke fun at ourselves as we age. We figure we’re being good sports about the whole thing. You know, rolling with the punches.
So we joke about our thinning hair. Laugh about our spreading middles. And tell each other our funniest so-called senior moments to cover up our memory loss.
But the truth is aging can be scary sometimes. I like to say it’s not for sissies. And if you’re a bit older and feeling anxious about memory loss, I want to assure you that you’re NOT alone.
We don’t like to admit it. Not even to our own doctors. But a national poll conducted by the University of Michigan a few years ago revealed the truth.
Many of us ARE anxious about declining brain health, especially if we’ve had a loved one with memory loss. And the majority of folks polled said they did things like puzzles or take supplements to try to head it off.
Now, a new animal study has revealed a surprising way many Americans may be harming our memories as we age. And it’s something that’s entirely within our control.
Junk food diet triggered brain issues
Our love of convenience is catching up to us.
Many of us have come to rely on canned soups, cereals, fast foods, frozen meals, sweets, salty snacks, and other packaged foods to feed ourselves. But the ultra-processed foods so many of us are fond of are putting our health at serious risk.
Of course, I’ve warned you about convenience foods and the effects they’ve had on our health for years now. Research has already revealed we’re paying a steep price for filling our bellies with foods that are low in the nutrients our bodies need to thrive.
Studies have linked these highly processed foods to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. And just last year, I warned that if you eat too many of them, they could be putting you in the aging fast lane by damaging the telomeres that cap off your DNA.
Now, a new animal study has found that these same foods could be robbing us of our precious memories too. And judging by the recent experiment, that memory loss could be occurring shockingly fast.
Researchers placed a group of aging lab rats on a junk food diet of ultra-processed foods. For four weeks, the critters munched on foods designed to mimic the ready-to-eat packaged foods many of us regularly chow down on, such as frozen pizzas, deli meats, packaged entrees, and potato chips. Think refined carbs, and you get the idea.
Within just a few short weeks, inflammation levels in the rodents’ brains shot through the roof. Even worse, the rats were showing clear signs of memory loss within four weeks.
Fight off memory loss with food
One senior study author called the quick decline in memory “a little bit alarming.” I’d say that’s an understatement when you consider how often many of us choose these convenience foods over making our own fresh meals.
The researchers warned that the memory loss brought on by a diet heavy in processed foods could progress into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. And when you take a look at the numbers, it appears that we may already be seeing this effect.
In another recent study, New York University researchers found that the amount of ultra-processed foods we’re eating has been on the rise. In 2001 53.5 percent of the average American’s calories came from these foods. That’s already far too much. But by 2017, that has risen to 57 percent.
At the same time, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have been climbing too, jumping 88 percent between 1999 and 2019. And while our diet isn’t the only factor to blame for the rise in memory-loss-related disease, there’s every reason to believe it’s playing a big role.
The solution, of course, is simple. It’s time to change our eating habits.
Cut way back on processed foods. Start cooking homemade meals again using fresh ingredients. Fill your shopping cart with organic vegetables, grass-fed meats and dairy products, and pastured eggs. And consider switching to a low-carb diet.
You’ll soon find that even convenience foods you didn’t think you could live without, such as spaghetti sauces and salad dressings, are easy to make at home.
And specifically, add more memory-loss fighting foods to your menu, starting with DHA-rich wild-caught fish, including salmon, tuna, and trout.
In the rat study, when the researchers supplemented the rodent’s junk-food diet with DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid prevented the memory loss and reduced the inflammation the foods caused.
See my earlier report Improve memory with 15 brain-boosting foods for even more brain-friendly ingredients to add to your menus.
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