This Diet Is Almost Guaranteed to Grow a Bigger Brain

This Diet Is Almost Guaranteed to Grow a Bigger Brain

There is fascinating – and important – new medical research on brain health and growth.

Americans love diets. South Beach. Atkins. Paleo. Eat to Win. DASH. Volumetric. Ketogenic (Coming back to that one in a minute). Flexterian. MIND. What works for a big healthy brain?

From research by a team at the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands: “We found that better diet quality related to larger volume, gray matter volume, white matter volume and hippocampal volume”.

As a refresher, gray matter is the tissue of the brain and spinal cord, and white matter is bundles of axons which connect various gray matter areas to each other and to the spinal cord. It is comprised mainly of neurons and dendrites. The hippocampus is, among other functions, critical to memory formation and is involved in learning.

Meike Vernooij, MD, PhD, and Professor of Radiology, and Pauline Croll, MSc of Erasmus University led the study. About 4,000 participants, who, among other things, were MRI tested at the beginning and end of a ten-year period. From that study: “High intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, dairy and fish and low intake of sugar-containing beverages were associated with larger brain volume”. (Hint: this is the Mediterranean Diet.) From Croll: “Optimizing diet quality might be a suitable preventive strategy to maintain and augment cognition in healthy older adults”.  One last quote from Vernooij: “…people who ate a combination of healthier foods had larger brain tissue volumes”. Note that it says larger volume, that is, a bigger brain.  Link to the research here and here.

Another study reported in Aging Resource Reviews stated: “Among existing dietary patterns, adherence to a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern during older adulthood was associated with a lower risk of developing several different health outcomes such as CVD (Cardiovascular Disease), neurodegenerative disorders, cancer and overall mortality”. The lead authors are David Vauzor, a PhD in Molecular Nutrition and a Research Fellow at the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglica, and Abbott Labs Scientist Maria Camprubi Morales, a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Both research and report on healthy aging frequently. Link to the research here. Fair warning, it is long.

So, that settles it doesn’t it? Mediterranean Diet for a Bigger Brain. And we are all about Bigger Brains.

But You’ve Got Those Hungry Billions to Feed

But we aren’t just eating for one. In addition to the person your cerebrum thinks you are; you eat for the hundreds of billions of tiny creatures that inhabit your gut. And those microbes have their own preferences. Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA were trying to understand why children who had epileptic seizures not well-controlled by medicine frequently responded to the ketogenic diet.

They found that two specific types of bacteria like the keto diet so much that their levels elevate. Then they produce a chemical that signals the brain to produce another chemical which reduces the frequency of seizures. As unbelievable as that may be, it gets even more interesting. If either one of those two types of bacteria isn’t present, the process doesn’t happen. They only work as a team.

The research was led by Elaine Hsiao PhD, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology and graduate student Christine Olson. Link to that rather fascinating research here.

While several hundred species of minuscule gut creatures have been identified, science has no idea what most of them do-if anything. But there are hints that the absence of some specific strains is related to a long list of illnesses. Given that, the Med diet still looks like the best bet for a big healthy brain. But add some fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut, because the tiny creatures seem to like it. And watch for medical news on other ways to keep the cohabitants of our bodies happy.

In Case You Missed It

We covered how going barefoot might help your heart and brain. Link here.

We discussed how experiencing certain positive emotions are positive for brain health. Link here.

Coming Attractions

We’re digesting (get it?) some new research on meditation and brain health as well as yoga and will likely cover that in our next newsletter.

Shameless Plug

We have a great, lightweight exercise kit with stretch bands and a yoga strap and pics of sample exercises. Use the strap to do a variety of stretches like our model pictured below. A steal at $25 .

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