Too much sugar and the wrong kinds of fats can literally decrease the mind’s abilities. This review found that while chronic intake of omega-6 fatty acids, refined sugars, and other “high-energy” foods can ultimately lead to cognitive decline because they cause inflammation and oxidative stress, even occasional dietary “cheat days” can affect the brain.
One of the reasons that these inflammatory insults from unbalanced omega-6 fatty acids, refined sugars, and overabundance of carbs hurt the workings of the mind is because they also reduce levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, better known as BDNF.
BDNF helps create neurons (important cells in the brain and nervous system) and helps maintain the brain cells you already have. It is also essential for nourishing the way that the brain learns and adapts. One way of boosting BDNF levels is simple – exercise.
Additionally, changing habits, like cutting out junk food and being more physically active, the researchers in this review reported that supplementation with omega-3s and curcumin from turmeric can boost cognitive function.
One of the best of assuring that you’re getting the most benefits from omega-3 is to take a supplement that is stable, bound to beneficial phospholipids, and from a single-species source, like salmon. As for curcumin, look for one that is clinically studied and has been shown to be effective. Absorption can be an issue for curcumin, so getting a supplemental form that is combined with turmeric essential oil can substantially increase bioavailability, and by extension, it’s inflammation-fighting abilities and BDNF-generating power.
Beilharz JE, Maniam J, Morris MJ. Diet-Induced Cognitive Deficits: The Role of Fat and Sugar, Potential Mechanisms and Nutritional Interventions. Nutrients. 2015 Aug 12;7(8):6719-38. doi: 10.3390/nu7085307. PMID: 26274972; PMCID: PMC4555146.
It is of vital importance to understand how the foods which are making us fat also act to impair cognition. In this review, we compare the effects of acute and chronic exposure to high-energy diets on cognition and examine the relative contributions of fat (saturated and polyunsaturated) and sugar to these deficits. Hippocampal-dependent memory appears to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of high-energy diets and these deficits can occur rapidly and prior to weight gain. More chronic diet exposure seems necessary however to impair other sorts of memory. Many potential mechanisms have been proposed to underlie diet-induced cognitive decline and we will focus on inflammation and the neurotrophic factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Finally, given supplementation of diets with omega-3 and curcumin has been shown to have positive effects on cognitive function in healthy ageing humans and in disease states, we will discuss how these nutritional interventions may attenuate diet-induced cognitive decline. We hope this approach will provide important insights into the causes of diet-induced cognitive deficits, and inform the development of novel therapeutics to prevent or ameliorate such memory impairments.
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