Foods and Vitamins that Help Brain Development
and Repair Damage
At the Family Clinic we recommend a conservative approach to Vitamins and other Supplements. If you are trying to repair body tissue or brain tissue, then higher amounts of supplements may be necessary. For improving non-verbal I.Q., or regular functioning, then we recommend more modest amounts of vitamins. Remember that some vitamins and minerals can be toxic or harmful to children and adults. The more information you have about taking supplements, the wiser your decisions on how much and what kinds of supplements to take.
Always consult your physician, especially if you or your child takes medications. There always exists the possibility that the supplement could have negative effects if taken with certain medications. On the other hand, many supplements appear to work well with medication and with time, may help to lower the need for medication.
We always recommend obtaining supplements from food sources first. For example, we feel that the antioxidants from blueberries to be superior to antioxidants found in a supplement. Others might have different opinions. When considering supplements, we feel natural supplements are better than unnatural supplements. Try to obtain the highest quality of supplements first. If they work well, then to save money, you may wish to find less expensive brands. However, if you feel the less expensive brand is not performing as well as the quality brand, then you will want to switch back. Give diet and supplements time to work.
Finally, nutrition is a relatively new science and there is much left to be discovered. Years ago, nutritionist recommended supplements for improved growth and development. Every year more and more scientific research studies confirm that this was good advice.
Foods that are Good For Your Brain
Including certain foods as snacks can do much to improve brain functioning. Below are examples of healthy foods. Foods high in antioxidants (healthy chemicals that clean the brain from free radicals that cause cell deterioration) can dramatically reverse memory loss, restore motor coordination and balance. These foods are raisins, berries, apples, grapes, cherries, prunes, and spinach.
Another healthy group of foods contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help improve general brain functioning and restore memory. Foods high in Omega-3 include: salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, flax oil, and walnuts.
The whole body runs on carbohydrates. Too much of simple carbohydrates can be harmful to the body and brain functioning by creating a sharp rise in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates digests well and do not cause sharp rises in blood sugar. Foods high in complex carbohydrates include peanuts, dried apricots, dried beans, yogurt, oat bran, All Bran cereal (be careful of the high sugar content in some brands), and sourdough bread. Including vinegar or lemon juice with your foods helps suppress a sharp rise in blood sugar.
Foods to Avoid
Some types of fat are not good for your brain. Polyunsaturated fats can set up chronic inflammatory responses in brain tissue and foster blood damage. They are also harmful to blood vessels and ultimately blood circulation. Foods with high polyunsaturated fats include: safflower, sunflower and corn oils. These oils are usually included in processed foods such as salad dressings, fries, doughnuts and most margarines. Even worse are hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils are used in process foods such as micro-wave popcorn, boxed cakes, TV dinners, etc.
Sugar is another food to avoid. Eating too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance which upsets the glucose level in the blood. This may lead to permanent damage to brain cells. Simple carbohydrates turn instantly to sugar within the body. Some scientist feel that eating white potatoes or white bread is just like eating candy. Carbohydrates influence mood. There is a delicate balance of the right kind of carbohydrates. Eating complex carbohydrates and avoiding simple carbohydrates insures that the body's carbohydrates are in balance.
Supplements that are Helpful to Brain Functioning
Multivitamins: A modest dose of a variety of vitamins and minerals is regarded as excellent brain insurance. In several research studies, between one third and one half of school children who took a multivitamin-mineral supplement raised their non-verbal IQ scores as much as 25 points.
Antioxidant supplements: Antioxidants help clean up the brain. To explain we will use an analogy. Antioxidants are like rust cleaners that keep rust off our brain matter. Vitamin E and C, alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, coenzyme Q10 are examples of antioxidants. Children should take half of the recommended adult dosages. Researcher feel adults should take: 400 to 500 IUs of vitamin E, 500 to 1,000 mg vitamin C, 10-50 mg lipoic acid. While there is no established dose of coQ10, for adults, individuals with heart disease or degenerative brain disease should take 100-200 mg. The top 10 foods with antioxidants from most to least are: prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, garlic, cooked kale, cranberries, strawberries, raw spinach, and raspberries.
Omega-3: Omega-3s are found in oil and are believed to create new communication centers in neurons which help brain functioning and mood. Children who fail to get enough omega-3 in their early developmental periods may have lower IQs later in life. Again, Omega-3s are found in tuna fish, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, oysters, walnuts, and flax seed oil. Recommended adult dosages are 650 mg a day of Omega-3s (DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid and EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid). The vegetarian form of DHA is specifically recommended for pregnant and lactating women to enhance fetal and infant brain development.
Selenium: This mineral is found in grains, garlic, meat, seafood (oysters, swordfish, tuna) and Brazil nuts. Reportedly, research participants felt clearheaded, elated, confident and energetic when taking 220 micrograms of Selenium daily for three months. It is a good way to naturally elevate our moods.
Vitamin E: Apparently there are two types of vitamin E. Researchers gave a combination of 100 milligrams of alpha tocopherol plus 240 mg. of tocotrienols to adults with severe narrowing of the carotid artery. 40% of these patients were able to avoid heart surgery with this combination of vitamin E. Good blood circulation to the brain means good brain functioning.
Folic Acid: Research suggests that up to 38% of adults diagnosed with depression have low blood levels of folic acid and respond less well to antidepressant drugs. Adding about 400 mcg. of folic acid to a daily diet may help. Low blood levels of folic acid triple one's risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Ginkgo Biloba: Believed to ward off age-related memory loss. It destroys free radicals and increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain. Adults take 240 mg daily.
Phosphatidylserine or PS: Believed to stimulate production of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter used in memory). Older adults who took 100 mg of PS three times a day for twelve weeks improved on a number of memory and higher learning tests. The worse the deficit, the greater was the improvement.
Chromium: 200 micrograms of chromium a day helps suppress a sharp rise in blood sugar.
The B vitamins: These vitamins are very important for people under much stress. Middle-aged men with the highest blood level of vitamin B6 scored the highest on memory tasks than middle-aged men low in this vitamin. Taking B vitamins improve verbal memory and assists in brain development.
References: Most of this material can be found in the book: Your Miracle Brain by Jean Carper, ISBN: 0060183918.
This article is adapted from an article in USA Weekend, March 3-5, 2000.