Brain Food

Brain Food

For two decades I’ve obsessed over “body food” – the food that builds muscle, the diet that melts fat, and the fuel that optimizes performance. But in the last few years I’ve started digging into another component. I wanted to discover how to build my brain like I built my body. This led to the researching of what I call “Brain Food.”

Brain Health

I think “brain health” is one of the most insidious health issues today. If you’re overweight it’s obvious. When walking a flight of stairs if you get winded, you know you’re out of shape. If your joints ache, digestion hurts, and weighed down with fatigue your body lets you know.

It’s much more difficult to pinpoint brain fog. Cloudy days become normal. It’s easy to forget that your memory isn’t as sharp as it use to be. And it’s not obvious that the skyrocking mental health problems could have association with diet. Suicide, autism, ADHD – all on an ever-increasing arc.

Dementia has a long, slow, insidious onset. It’s scary.

A Lesson from my Grandmas

My two grandmas highlighted the importance of brain health for me.

My Mom’s Mom was the picture of “unhealthy.” She was obese, bound to a wheelchair for decades, had diabetes, and was on dialysis and too many prescription drugs to keep track of. But her brain was sharp. She had a great memory, she had no problem keeping tabs on all 50+ of her grandchildren, and mentally she just had it all together.

My Dad’s Mom was the exact opposite. She looked like the picture of health. She was on her feet into her 90s. But what she had in bodily health, she lost in brain health. She not only lost the ability to recall her grandchildren, but her own children.

And one thing became crystal clear.

Nothing is more important than brain health.

You can ask anyone in my family if they’d rather maintain bodily health or brain health, and you’ll get unanimous agreement – brain health.

Brain Optimization

My personal interest in brain health is to maximize my mental performance. I want continual mental energy and endurance.

My goal is to keep the clouds of brain fog ever at bay, and have the sun shining through all day, every day. And I want my thinking to be clear, quick, and consistent. I also want to do everything in my power to preserve brain health as long as I’m breathing.

Brain Food Series

“Brain Food” is going to be a multi-part series.

There is going to be 3 main parts:

  • Part I: “Your Brain on Meat” (coming soon)
  • Part II: “Your Brain on Plants” (coming soon)
  • Part III: “The Brain-Body Connection” (coming soon)

By the end of this series, you’ll have a grasp on “What is Brain Food?” You’ll know how you can use food to fuel your brain and perform at the highest level. And insights on how to keep it firing on all cylinders for the long haul.

You’ll also have an understanding of how integrated brain-body health is and how optimizing for brain health can help you keep your body looking and feeling young.

To kick off this series on Brain Food – I wanted to start with some Brain Facts.

Brain Facts

Big Brain

The most distinguishing feature of humans, the thing that separates us from all other animals, is our massive, complex brain. We have the biggest brain:body ratio of any animal. (r)

This amazing feature is highlighted in our divergence from our earliest hominid ancestors. Fossils of human craniums show that our modern human brains are nearly 4X the size of our early ancestors.

It’s now estimated that we have nearly 100 billion brain cells. (r, r)

Hungry Brain

Not only are our brains big, they are hungry and selfish.

Our brains are about 2% of our body weight but use 20% of all our energy as well as our total blood and oxygen supply. (r, r, r, r)

Fat Brain

Our brains are fat – about 60% fat, in fact. They also contain 25% of all our bodily cholesterol. Perhaps not surprising then to see high cholesterol helps prevent dementia. (r, r, r)

This energy hungry organ needs a constant supply of fuel. But it can’t store energy.

To compensate for this, the brain uses 2 fuel systems – glucose and ketone bodies. (r, r)

Shrinking Brains

Our brains have been shrinking at an alarming rate – ~10% since the advent of agriculture. (r, r, r, r, r, r, r)

Brain Food

There are numerous reasons why our brains are shrinking but diet and lifestyle seem to be major contributors. (r, r, r, r)

Brain Changes

The brain controls virtually everything we experience. It facilitates movement, allows us to sense the environment, and regulates automatic body processes like breathing.

Hundreds of thousands of chemical reactions occur every second in the brain – which underlie our thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

And our brains have been changing.

  • IQs are going down. (r)
  • Attention spans are decreasing. (r)

Exposure to EMF (like cell phones) adversely affect over 140 proteins in the brain. (r)

The brain has a shield call the Blood-Brain-Barrier that is designed to protect it from foreign / toxic substances. Yet novel foods that we eat as well as toxins that we drink can breach this barrier and get into the brain. (r, r)

Brain and Mental Health

Mental health is a modern day epidemic. (r, r)

  • 20% of Americans suffer from a mental disorder in a given year
  • 4 of the 10 leading causes of disability are mental illnesses
  • ~20% of doctor’s appointments are related to anxiety disorders
  • 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental health problem
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 10-34 year olds

The causes of mental health problems are thought to be multifactorial yet are largely unknown. Biologic and physiologic changes like low levels of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are commonly seen. There are genetic associations. There are environmental and societal impacts and influences.

What often gets left out is diets potential impact on mental health issues.

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed child behavioral disorder. There is no single cause that has been discovered, but there is evidence that iron deficiency could play a large role. (r)

Sick Brain

Accompanying the rise in mental health problems, we have a dramatic rise is brain health problems including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (Type III Diabetes).

Diet is absolutely implicit. (r)

Brain-Body

We actually have 2 brains. The one in our head and the one in our gut.

The 2nd brain, the one in the gut, has ~100 million neurons. Our gut bacteria, the microbiome, make over 30 neurotransmitters, including the “happy molecule” serotonin. (r)

The interplay between the brain and the gut connect and intertwine our brains with the whole body.

Genius Brain

Our brains are truly amazing. We have inherent genius in all of us. (r, r)

For example, just read this:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. 

In other words…

Research at Cambridge University showed the order of letters in a word doesn’t matter much to your brain. As long as the first and last letters are in the right spot, your brain can rearrange the letters to form words as fast as you can read. (r)

The human brain is miraculous. And I think it’s important to take care of it. To feed it what it needs so it can continue to work it’s magic.

This is just a taste of what’s to come in the Brain Food Series.

Part I – Your Brain on Meat – is coming soon.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend reading this article on Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods as a starter to this series.

14 Replies to “Brain Food”

  1. Good start. Can’t wait to for the 3 part series to be completed. Also looking forward to learning more about the effects of EMFs on the brai.

    1. As soon as I can!

      Due to the chaos of my current schedule – I’m shooting to post a new article every 1-3 weeks – hopefully closer to every week than every month 🙂

  2. Kevin, if u have not yet seen it….www.newscientist.com amazing progress on AD research, now looking at bucal health and harmful bacteria possibly contributing to alzheimer disease. Interesting relation!!
    Louise

  3. Hi Kevin – The 2016 CDC graph you posted shows suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for the 3 age groups combined 10-34 year olds

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