How to Slow Brain Aging by Two Years

“How to Slow Brain Aging
By Two Years” A plant-based diet is thought to have played
a significant role in human evolution. And the consumption of whole plant
foods and even just extracts has repeatedly been associated with a
decreased risk of aging related diseases. And by healthy aging I’m not
talking preventing wrinkles. What about protecting
our brain? Two of the most dreaded consequences
of dementia with aging are problems moving around and
difficulty remembering things. Dementia robs older adults of their
independence, control, and identity. What can we
do about it? Well, fruits and vegetables help reduce
the risk of other chronic diseases, might they work for
brain diseases as well? There has been a proliferation
of recent interest in plant polyphenols as agents
in the treatment of dementia. There are 4,000 different
kinds found ubiquitously in foods of plant origin,
but berries are packed with them, possessing powerful antioxidant,
anti-inflammatory properties, and there’s a subset of a
subset called anthocyanidins, natural blue-purple pigments
uniquely and specifically capable of both crossing the
blood–brain barrier and localizing inside brain regions
involved in learning and memory. And that’s where
we need it. The brain takes up less than
like 2% of the body weight, but may burn up to 50%
of the body’s fuel, creating a potential
firestorm of free radicals. So maybe these brain-seeking
phytonutrients in berries could fight oxidation, inflammation,
and increase blood flow. So, this raised a
thought-provoking idea. Maybe a nutritional intervention
with blueberries may be beneficial in forestalling
or even reversing the neurological changes
associated with aging. So did researchers give blueberries
to people and see what happened? No, as I noted in an earlier video,
they gave blueberries to rats. It would be a decade before
the first human trial. But it worked! “Blueberry Supplementation
Improves Memory in Older Adults” suggesting that consistent
supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach
to forestall or mitigate brain degeneration
with age. What other blue/purple
foods can we try? Concord grape juice
had a similar benefit, improving verbal
learning, suggesting that supplementation
with purple grape juice may enhance cognitive function in
older adults with early memory decline. Why use juice and not
whole concord grapes? Because then you couldn’t
design a placebo that looked and tasted
exactly the same to rule out the very real
and powerful placebo effect. And also, because it was funded by
the Welch’s grape juice company. This effect was confirmed
in a follow-up study , showing for the first time an
increase in neural activation in parts of the brain associated with
memory using functional MRI scans. But this brain scan study was
tiny, just 4 people in each group. And same problem in
the blueberry study – it just had 9
people in it. Why haven’t large population-based
studies been done? Because we haven’t
had good databases on where these
phytonutrients are found. We know how much vitamin C
is in a blueberry, but not how much
anthocyanidin, …until now. The Harvard Nurse’s Health Study followed the cognitive function of
more than 16,000 women for years, and found that higher, long-term
consumption of berries was associated with significantly
slower rates of cognitive decline in this cohort
of older women, even after careful consideration of
confounding by socioeconomic status, meaning even after taking into account the
fact that rich people eat more berries. The first population-based
evidence that greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries
were highly associated with slower rates
of cognitive decline, and not just by
a little bit. The magnitude of associations
were equivalent to the cognitive differences
that one might observe in women up to 2 and a
half years apart in age. In other words, women with
higher intake of berries appeared to have delayed cognitive
aging by as much as 2 1/2 years. Why not just take some kind of
anthocyanidin supplement? Because there hasn’t been a single study
that found any kind of cognitive benefit just giving these single
phytonutrients. In fact the opposite. Whole blueberries appear to be more
effective than individual components, showing that the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts. These findings potentially have
substantial public health implications, as increasing berry intake represents
a fairly simple dietary modification to test in older adults for
maintaining brain function.


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