I have to admit, I've never ogled a six pack and had brain envy at the same time, but according to this article at AwakeningFromAlzheimers.com, maybe I should!
A low-calorie, nutrient-dense diet for a lean, healthy body is not a new concept, but the link between fewer calories and brain function is the upshot of this new research:
Scientists think that because our brain development was designed for the kind of lifestyle and food selection people had 20,000 years ago, our bodies, brains and diets are mismatched in ways that harm both our physiology and cognitive powers.
But they see a way out by making straightforward shifts in the foods we choose to eat. Some of these scientists are convinced that these improvements can conquer two widespread modern afflictions: our bulging waistlines and our shrinking brains. And it’s the degeneration in brain tissue that leaves us vulnerable to problems like Alzheimer’s disease.
This advice isn’t new, but what IS new is the linkage to shrinkage (of your brain, that is).
According to research performed in Italy, our surfeit of calories speeds up brain aging while adding unwanted pounds of body fat. Their lab research shows that easing back on calories stimulates the release of a molecule called CREB1i. CREB1 increases the expression of genes connected to extended life expectancy and better brain function.
When researchers at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome fed lab animals only 70 percent of the calories they normally eat, the animals lived longer and had brains that aged more slowly. The scientists point out that CREB1 has been shown to regulate vital brain functions like memory, learning and anxiety control. Normally, its activity declines with aging and it is physiologically stymied as you grow older.
According to George Armelagos, an anthropologist at Emory University,
“Our evolutionary history has given us a brain that is focused much of the time on eating, and a gut that isn’t designed for today’s variety and volume of (calorically) high-density food.”
Armelagos believes that our digestive systems are small in order to save energy and make the body’s resources more available to our complex brains. And those evolutionary developments have long been built into our DNA. As he puts it, “Our cravings for certain foods don’t go back just a few years, or even 10,000 years, but more than a million years.”
Armelagos advocates eating more fruits and vegetables and nuts as well as grass fed meat (containing healthier fat than meat sold in most groceries). He argues against eating the highly processed foods that we find so irresistible.
“Industrialization of the food system has made an overwhelming abundance of inexpensive, high-energy-dense foods—sugar and fats—available to populations in some areas of the world,” he writes in a report published in the Journal of Anthropological Researchii. “The disjunction between the small amount of physical energy they expend to obtain significant numbers of calories has created the modern obesity epidemic.”
The advice is clear: Offset these evolutionary mismatches by cutting calories and eliminating processed food. Follow this dietary path and you can take care of two problems at the same time: shed pounds and protect your brain as you age.
Read the unabridged article, The Less You Eat, The Smarter You Get, and we'll see you at the next Mensa meeting!
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