Your Diet Is Probably Bad For Your Brain
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Your Diet Is Probably Bad For Your Brain

Your Diet Is Probably Bad For Your Brain. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In Today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from dementia expert Patrick Holford, founder of the charity Foodforthebrain.org. Patrick will explore the research that shows how food affects our brains. A new pandemic is caused by the food we eat. Our daily food intake is damaging our brain, resulting in a mental health meltdown as rates of mental illness soar. This week, a think tank of experts declared the severity of this issue.

Your Diet Is Probably Bad For Your Brain

We are facing a new pandemic. It is not the result of a return of Covid or bird flu but caused by something much closer to home that affects us daily. The food we eat. It is damaging our brains.

A report just published in the Lancet found that neurological diseases, from autism to Alzheimer’s, are affecting 43% of the world’s population. The Federation of European Neuroscientists has declared a ‘brain health emergency’. The Times reports that two-thirds of benefit claims are for mental health. Diagnoses of autism and ADHD are steadily increasing.

The good news is that a fightback is beginning. A virtual conference called “Upgrade Your Brain” was held by foodforthebrain.org. It brought together neuroscience, psychiatry, nutrition, and neurology experts to brainstorm solutions for brain health. They identified the four ‘horsemen of the mental health apocalypse’ lurking in our diet.

Standard healthy eating advice rarely warns about them all. They are:

  • A lack of brain fats, notably omega-3 from seafood but also vitamin D;
  • Increased intake of sugar and ultra-processed foods;
  • A lack of the many antioxidants and polyphenols (micronutrients) found in spices, vegetables and fruits, especially berries;
  • Lack of B vitamins, notably B12, producing homocysteine, a brain toxic amino acid.

 

The toll exacted by the horsemen is vast. Mental illness is now costing considerably more than all cancer and heart disease combined. “The Children’s Society recently reported a tripling in NHS referrals for mental ill-health in the last three years,” says Professor Michael Crawford at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Campus of Imperial College.

Pregnancy

According to Crawford, the damage begins during pregnancy. Lack of B12 and folate in the mother increases later behavioural problems in their children. Fewer than five per cent of children get the primary recommendation of seafood rich in omega-3, and many eat none at all. “Special schools are bursting at the seams,” says former National Association of Head Teachers president Dr Rona Tutt.

“High sugar and ultra-processed foods are devasting mental health, and they play a major part in the increase of ADHD, depression and dementia,” says Professor Robert Lustig from the University of California. Dr Georgia Ede, a psychiatrist from Harvard, reports studies showing low-carb diets reversing mental illness.

The NHS

According to the NHS, one in five adults in England are on anti-depressants, and last year, one million teenagers were prescribed them. This year, prescriptions are expected to exceed 100 million. Independent researchers have been warning about their lack of effectiveness and damaging side effects. However, nutritional deficiencies are not the only threat to our brains. The way we live can also contribute to the damage. “The combination of poor diet, lack of exercise, less intellectual and social stimulation, stress, and insomnia creates a ‘perfect storm’ for the brain,” says neuroscientist Dr. Tommy Wood at the University of Washington.

Wood is leading research at the charity foodforthebrain.org, which has developed a defensive strategy to protect the brain with nutritional and lifestyle changes. It starts by finding out how well your brain is doing via a free online Cognitive Function Test followed by personalised advice on reducing your dementia risk.

High Homocysteine

The fourth horseman, high homocysteine (a consequence of a lack of B vitamins), is linked to all of the mental problems that are on the rise because it damages nerves and brain cells as well as arteries, the brain’s supply chain—your memory declines if your homocysteine is high in half those over 65. According to Oxford University research, lowering it reduces brain shrinkage in pre-dementia patients by two-thirds. GPs rarely test it.

Testing and lowering homocysteine is a crucial target of foodforthebrain.org’s prevention plan. Participants are sent a home test kit to measure blood levels of omega-3, homocysteine, and HBA1c for sugar balance and vitamin D, the lack of which is another contributor to dementia and depression. The charity aims to reach a million people in the largest-ever citizen science project and has tested 420,000 so far.

The idea that Alzheimer’s can be prevented is gaining support. The US National Institutes of Health have attributed 22% of the risk of Alzheimer’s to raised blood homocysteine and 22% to a lack of seafood and omega-3 fats.

A recent study using UK Biobank data concluded that up to 72% of dementia cases could be prevented if all risk factors were targeted. “Even this is probably underestimating the power of prevention,” says Professor David Smith from the University of Oxford, one of the study authors. The number of preventable cases could be higher if a person’s omega-3 and B vitamin status, measured by a blood test for homocysteine (not measured by the UK Biobank), were taken into account.”

Alzheimer’s Prevention

China’s leading prevention expert, Professor Jin-Tai Yu from Shanghai’s Fudan University, a co-author of this study, agrees. “Homocysteine-lowering treatment with vitamins, especially B12, is one of the most promising interventions for dementia prevention.”

“The same diet changes that reduce the risk for dementia also help everything from ADHD to depression,” says charity founder Patrick Holford, author of the new book Upgrade Your Brain. He is visiting 30 cities in the UK and Ireland over the next month to kick start a nationwide ‘Upgrade Your Brain’ campaign. “We need to engage with millions of people, get nutrition education happening in school, and most of all get health authorities and governments around the world to take the mental health meltdown seriously and put brain health at the top of the health agenda.”

Professor Crawford says, “Today’s diet bears no resemblance to the wild foods we ate during our species’ evolution to which our genome is adapted. As a consequence, our brain size shrinks. If we don’t prioritise brain health and nutrition, the continued escalation of mental ill health, starting in the 1950s, can only end in disaster.”

The group is also launching Alzheimer’s Prevention Day on May 15th (see https://alzheimersprevention.info) with a free 3-minute online Alzheimer’s Prevention Check to motivate people to make the eight brain-friendly diet and lifestyle changes (see below). “You are the architect of your own brain’s future health,” says neurologist Dr David Perlmutter, another group member.

8 Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Alzheimer's
8 Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

 

To join the Upgrade Your Brain campaign, attend a seminar, take the Cognitive test to become a ‘citizen scientist’, listen to the recorded Upgrade Your Brain conference, or participate in Alzheimer’s Prevention Day, visit https://foodforthebrain.org/upgradeyourbrain 

I hope you enjoyed that.

Talk soon.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patrick Holford is a Nutrition and Mental Health expert & Founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, VitaminC4Covid, and the charitable Food for the Brain Foundation, where he directs their Alzheimer’s prevention project. Patrick reads hundreds of studies a year, assimilating the latest health breakthroughs and turning them into practical advice to make it easy for everyone to live a healthy life. He is the author of 46 health books translated into over 30 languages.

https://www.patrickholford.com

Working with Strong women, I help empower women not to give up on their goals and find true happiness within themselves. #lifestyle #womenempowerment #selfcare

13 Comments

  • Tameka

    It’s about time someone actually addresses this. Not enough people are talking about the damage convenient meals are causing our bodies. Thanks for delving into this

  • Julie

    This is such timely information for us because my parents are in the early stages of dementia, and my nephew has ADHD. I definitely want to share this article about how your diet is probably bad for your brain because that 43% statistic is scary! Thanks for sharing this important health information. (P.S. – my neurologist said I have one of the largest brains he’s ever seen. I wonder how it got so big, and too bad that it doesn’t mean that I am automatically smart!) LOL

  • Allison C

    You’re absolutely right! In spite of having a very good diet, running for 40 years, writing my dissertation on exercise addiction, and taking medication to control the symptoms of heart disease that I inherited from my entire family, I had a stroke last year due to a clogged left carotid artery. Fortunately, I found a wonderful vascular surgeon who was able to clean it out. But I hope lots of people read your post and take it very seriously!

  • Merideth

    Wow, this is really enlightening. As someone trying to lose weight, I have only been prioritizing calories, instead of looking at vitamins and minerals. Time to make a shift! Thank you!

  • Kat

    Great post! It’s eye-opening how our diet affects our brain health. Your insights shed light on the importance of nutrition for mental well-being. Looking forward to more articles like this!

  • Nayna Kanabar

    Eating a healthy diet and exercise are so important to keep healthy and fit. Having a bad diet causes so much damage to mind and body . All the information yoh have highlighted is extremely helpful.

  • Beth

    With all the additives and preservatives in most foods, I’m quite sure my diet is bad for my brain! I try to make meals as much as possible, but even ingredients for meals can have hidden junk in them.

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