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Brain Killers

Brain Killers

I found out about brain killers from an early age. It was not about not wearing a helmet in bike riding and sports.

Instead, I learned that nutrition and lifestyle had a lot to do with concentration and cognition. (Mind you, school was about as exciting as watching paint dry.)

 

The danger of sugar

Like most North American kids, I consumed pounds and pounds of sugar in the form of breakfast cereals, soda, candy, chocolate bars, pastries and table sugar. The white death is not only an energy drainer, it feeds hostile bacteria in the gut, rots teeth and depletes B vitamins.

Later on, I learned that most clinically depressed people are also hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). Kind of hard to mentally focus when you are mentally fatigued most of the time.

Excessive sugar is responsible for everything from allergies to mood disorders. And if you think that a substitute like aspartame is going to a body any good, then you and your family are in for problems. (In Winnipeg, Manitoba, it was common to watch some low-income mothers feeding their babies cola pop in a baby bottle. Any mystery why some children have low grades and behavior problems?)

But, sugar is not the only brain killing, crazy maker on the market. Grains, soy beans, alcohol and various drugs also rage war on clear thinking.

 

High carbohydrate & low fat diet

Grains, especially wheat, cause inflammation in many people, including yours truly. Sure enough, one can tolerate certain amounts when one is young, active, and well-nourished. But, the North American diet, (at least in the 1970’s) largely consisted of bread, pasta, and pastries. The belief was that the high carbohydrate, high fiber, low-fat diet (like the Pritikin Diet) was healthier for the heart.

Well, the problem with this approach was that it led to low fat, processed foods that replaced fat with (you guessed it) sugar.

 

Fat consumption

So, healthy fats, like grass-fed butter contain high amounts of Vitamin A and D. Vitamin D supports the immune system and minimizes depression in most people. So, now North Americans not only avoid sunlight, but they are consuming less vitamin D, which lowers their mood.

As a kid, my mother forced us to take cod liver oil during the winter months. As much as I dreaded the taste, cod liver oil was high in vitamins A and D and the fish oils reduced inflammation and depression in some people. So, there is some evidence to fish being brain food.

The other brain killer is rancid fats. Usually labelled “oxidized fatty acids.” These are fats and oils that go bad and rancid. The big myth from the 1970s was that saturated fat (like butter) would clog your arteries and unsaturated fats (like vegetable oil) was healthier for your arteries.

The fact is that unsaturated fats, are healthy, IF they are consumed in their fresh state (eg. cold pressed). But, unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), will go rancid much quicker than saturated fats. Hence, diets high in rancid fats and oils will contribute to arterial plaque build up and lessening of cognitive abilities.

 

Stress

The last brain killer worth mentioning is stress. Extended periods of stress will inhibit the brain’s ability to rebuild itself. Overexposure to stress hormones, especially cortisol, causes memory impairment as well as long-term brain damage which can lead to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. So, chill out.

As much as I like working in a fast-paced environment, too much stress can lower your memory and cognitive ability. This is why it is often better to study during the week and get the extra sleep the night before an exam. Later night cramming sessions can just add to the stress and make concentration more difficult.

So, cut back on the sugar, grains, rancid fats and stress. Learn to eat more high protein and natural foods and learn to chill out.

 

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