Your mom knew the best diet…. eat your veggies

by Dr. Alan Kadish NMD

When you eat veggies you ingest a group of chemicals known as carotenoids two of which have been well evaluated to have an impact on our eyesight and cognitive function. What has not been know is how they work in our brain.

At the University of Georgia, some enterprising experiments were used to determine the differences in those who have higher vs lower levels. Turns out that you many not be smarter from the use but your brain is more efficient. You use less brain function to achieve the same results.

The phenomena was shown by using fMRI, a device that shows what areas of the brain are active. The scanning of older adult brains , those 65-86 of age, when they were tasked with recalling words showed a marked difference between areas needed for the same task.

Take away…. eat your veggies and it might be prudent to consider a supplement of the common carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. As a note, they are available in different strengths and ratios. A comprehensive product will typically also contain some of the trace minerals that are also known to be active and cofactors in both sight and cognitive function.

There is a whole science around the use of many natural products to effect changes in your brains function.  This area is referred to as nootropics.

Want to safely and effectively make a change in your brains’ ability to function ? Call us and set up an appointment at the Center of Health 541.773.3191.

 

Plant compounds may boost brain function in older adults, study says

University of Georgia Research News11/23/2016

The same compounds that give plants and vegetables their vibrant colors might be able to bolster brain functioning in older adults, according to a recent study from the University of Georgia. The research from the department of psychology is the first to use fMRI technology to investigate how levels of those compounds affect brain activity and showed that study participants with lower levels had to rely on more brain power to complete memory–oriented tasks.

People get these compounds, known as carotenoids, from their diets, and two of them–lutein and zeaxanthin–have been shown in previous research to bolster eye and cognitive health in older adults. What isn’t known is the neural mechanisms underlying the relationship between these compounds and cognition, said Cutter Lindbergh, first author of the study and a doctoral candidate in the psychology department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“If you can show that in fact there’s a real mechanism behind this, then you could potentially use these nutritional supplements or changes in diet, and you could easily intervene and potentially improve cognition in older adults,” said L. Stephen Miller, a professor of psychology and corresponding author of the study.

With Miller’s help, Lindbergh used fMRI technology, also known as functional MRI, to gauge the brain activity of more than 40 adults between 65 and 86 years old while they attempted to recall word pairings they were taught earlier. The researchers then analyzed brain activity while the participants were in the machine, finding that those individuals with higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin didn’t require as much brain activity to complete the task.

The researchers determined the level of the compounds in two ways: through serum samples, which are done using a blood sample, and through retinal levels that are measured using noninvasive flicker photometry, which relies on lights to determine levels of the compounds in the eye.

“There’s a natural deterioration process that occurs in the brain as people age, but the brain is great at compensating for that,” Lindbergh said. “One way it compensates is by calling on more brain power to get a job done so it can maintain the same level of cognitive performance.”

In this study, participants with lower levels of lutein and zeaxanthin had to use more brain power and relied more heavily on different parts of the brain in order to remember the word pairings they were taught. People with higher levels, on the other hand, were able to minimize the amount of brain activity necessary to complete the task. In other words, they were more “neurally efficient.”

“It’s in the interest of society to look at ways to buffer these decline processes to prolong functional independence in older adults,” Lindbergh said. “Changing diets or adding supplements to increase lutein and zeaxanthin levels might be one strategy to help with that.”

The study showed no relationship between the levels of the compounds and the number of words participants could recall, but this finding, while somewhat unexpected, demonstrated how the brain went into overdrive to compensate for any diminished cognitive functioning.

“On the surface, it looked like everyone was doing the same thing and recalling the same words,” Lindbergh said, “but when you pop the hood and look at what’s actually going on in the brain, there are significant differences related to their carotenoid levels.”

The participants weren’t randomly selected and the total sample size is small, but the amount of variation in brain functioning within the group was significant.

The study, “Relationship of lutein and zeaxanthin levels to neurocognitive functioning: An fMRI study of older adults,” was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

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Dr. Kadish is an unusual physician often referred to as a "doctor detective". His expertise is the evaluation and treatment of complex disorders, typically after other physicians have been stumped, is renowned. He provides care for all family members and has additional training in autistic spectrum disorders and chronic complex diseases.