July 09, 2008
Diet Matters For Brain Performance

A review of recent research work on the brain and nutrition finds food choices impact how well your brain functions.

In addition to helping protect us from heart disease and cancer, a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.
"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," said Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain. "Diet, exercise and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. This raises the exciting possibility that changes in diet are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging."
Gómez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food's affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the July issue of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience and are available online at www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n7/abs/nrn2421.html.
Omega-3 fatty acids — found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit — provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gómez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center.

Click through and read more details. It is all pretty predictable. Fish, vegetables, and other foods generally regarded as health are good for your brain. Junk food reduces brain performance.

In contrast to the healthy effects of diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, diets high in trans fats and saturated fats adversely affect cognition, studies indicate.

Junk food and fast food negatively affect the brain's synapses, said Gómez-Pinilla, who eats fast food less often since conducting this research. Brain synapses and several molecules related to learning and memory are adversely affected by unhealthy diets, he said.

Emerging research indicates that the effects of diet on the brain, combined with the effects of exercise and a good night's sleep, can strengthen synapses and provide other cognitive benefits, he added.

If you can't bring yourself to change your diet in order to reduce your cancer or heart risk 20, 30, 40 years from now how about improving your diet in order to boost your brain performance now?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 July 09 10:58 PM  Brain Nutrition

Fly said at July 10, 2008 4:56 PM:

Another reason to avoid junk food?

What Makes Food Fattening? A Pavlovian Theory of Weight Control

"The theory takes a familiar idea -- body fat is regulated by a system with a set point – and
adds two rules about how the set point changes. One rule is that calorie-associated flavors raise
the set point – the stronger the association, the greater the increase. The other rule is that these
increases are superimposed on a steady decline – the greater the set point, the faster the decline. A
steady state is reached when the rate of flavor-generated increases equals the rate of decline.
A food is fattening (raises the set point) to the extent its flavor is associated with calories.
The strongest flavor-calorie associations will occur, learning research implies, when four things
are true: (a) the flavor is strong and complex flavor; (b) the food is digested quickly; (c) the food
is eaten repeatedly; and (d) the flavor is exactly the same from one instance to the next. These
four traits combine in a multiplicative way in the sense that if one is entirely absent, the food will
not raise the set point at all."

"Brownell and Hagen (2004) blamed recent increases in American obesity on “a toxic
environment”...of fast food, junk food, and ads for fast food and
junk food. The theory supports this conclusion...but casts a wider net:
It suggests that a large fraction of packaged food is to blame because much of it has a strong
flavor, quickly-digested calories, very similar taste from one instance to the next, and is eaten

DensityDuck said at July 16, 2008 4:32 PM:

Why do people keep doing multimillion dollar studies looking for the "magic bullet" of weight control?

The answer is simple. Eat less and exercise more. Oh, I know, your mother's sister's brother's cousin's former roomate's aunt's friend had a glandular condition and just COULDN'T lose weight, she tried every diet out there(*) and she just COULD NOT LOSE WEIGHT. But for ninety percent of the "obese" population, it's all about balancing calories.

The real problem is that humans are genetically designed to gain weight quickly and lose it slowly. It takes a LOT of effort to lose weight--much more effort than many people really believe.

(*) two or three at a time, which might have been part of the problem!


And, as the OP points out, the results are hardly surprising. Turns out that the "Good For You" foods are good for you, and the "Bad For You" foods are bad for you. Shocking.

James said at November 10, 2008 6:00 PM:

I have found this to be true and have been taking supplements of Omega 3 for a while now. One important thing to remember though is that if you do decide on these not all supplements are created equal. Take for example Nordic Brand.. though it is affordable and boasts high quality it still does not contain the correct levels of DHA to EPA. Too much EPA in an Omega 3 supplement has been linked to side effects such as upset stomach..and even blood thinning. Neurovi, the one I take is the only one that has high levels of DHA while not having elevated levels of EPA. It is a powerful supplement that just simply works and I will tell everyone and anyone I know about it because I believe that much in it.

BTW they are offering a 12% discount if you use code "gift of health"

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