The formation of new brain cells, scientifically known as neurogenesis, is a continuous process. Neurogenesis continuously occurs in specific regions in the adult brain, mainly in an area called the hippocampus, and plays a critical role in the creation of new memories. As we age our hippocampal neurogenesis tends to decline by up to 10% in seniors alongside the ‘wear and tear’ and subsequent death of older brain cells (apoptosis). The slowing down of brain function is a natural part of ageing and nothing to be concerned about. There are, however, some simple tips that could potentially help to ease this decline:
After eating a sugary snack blood sugar levels will rise, and so too will insulin levels needed to help the body’s cells utilise the sugar. High insulin levels are said to affect memory even in healthy individuals. Overtime these spikes in sugar and insulin could have a devastating effect on daily memory function. To keep blood sugar levels balanced try to consume a good quality protein and/or fat source with each meal or snack helping to satisfy hunger and sustain fullness for longer and reduce subsequent sweet cravings later in the afternoon. Swap processed foods high in sugar or refined white carbohydrates for real wholefoods and stick to a regular routine so your body can regulate hunger hormones and mood fluctuations. Keep focused and calm when eating to improve digestion and to notice when you’re full!
The brain is incredibly energy hungry, although being fuelled primarily by glucose, fats and ketones are perfectly effective sources too and are increasingly reported to be beneficial to support memory function. However, high glucose and insulin levels will prevent the brain from switching to using fats and ketones. Normal forgetfulness as we age may or may not be a sign that the brain is struggling to fuel itself. Coconut oil, full-fat coconut milk and coconut butter are rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fats easily absorbed in the body and converted into the alternative brain fuel ketones. Coconut oil is a very stable saturated fat, so safe for cooking with and enhances the taste of a quick stir fry, raw chocolate made with coconut oil, creamed coconut or coconut butter can be enjoyed as a delicious healthy snack and coconut milk can be used in curries or smoothies.
In recent years, flavonoid-rich blueberries have gained significant attention for their ability to promote better cognitive performance and contribute to a delay in cognitive decline as we age. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is thought to play a critical role in the delay of aging by improving the health of the hippocampus as well as increasing new brain cell growth and long-term memory formation. BDNF levels are known to decrease throughout the day, however, research has found levels to be maintained following blueberry consumption.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are promoted as memory enhancers, but what does the science say? A recent review of 24 different studies showed that those low in omega 3 intake saw an improvement in short term memory when consumption was increased. So as not to become deficient I would recommend consuming at least one portion of omega 3 rich oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon per week.
Regular exercise such as Tai Chi has been shown in a number of studies to help improve memory in adults. Tai Chi is an increasingly popular mind-body exercise that incorporates physical, cognitive, social, and meditative components in the same activity. Tai Chi involves the learning of choreographed movement patterns which could be easily practised at home and may support memory enhancement. In 2014 a systematic review and meta-analysis looked at 20 different studies with a total of 2,553 participants aged 60 and older and concluded that Tai Chi shows potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults, particularly in the realm of executive functioning and in those individuals without significant impairment. Tai Chi offers moderate aerobic and agility training, safe for all abilities and enjoyable with the potential for long-term adherence.
Mindfulness could be described as a mental state characterised by the focus of attention on the present moment. Mindfulness is intentional, non-analytical and non-judgmental and an important component of meditation and mind-body practices such as yoga, Tai Chi, and qi gong and has been linked to a clearer more focused mind. This can be practiced with simple breathing exercises where you focus on the in breath and out breath. This can be as short as for just 3 breaths, or during a 10-30 minute meditation sit. Alternatively, regularly focusing your attention on the present moment whenever you consciously remember could offer great benefits too.
We are host to trillions of different microorganisms that mostly reside in our gut and can have a profound effect on our immune and digestive systems. Recent studies have demonstrated an association between changes in the gut microbiota and cognitive function including learning and memory. Emerging evidence suggests that the gut microbiome may play an important role in influencing brain health and cognitive function via a number of pathways, commonly becoming known as the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Animal studies have for some time been indicating the ability of live bacteria supplements to modulate cognitive behaviours including learning and memory, and initial findings from human clinical trials are looking promising.
I recommend Bio-Kult Mind, which contains live bacteria, bioavailable flavonoids, grape and wild blueberry extracts, and zinc. Zinc contributes to normal cognitive function and the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Zinc also contributes to the normal function of the immune system.
For more information and to purchase Bio-Kult Mind, visit Bio-Kult Mind
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