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Summary &Study Guide
The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power
Title: Summary & Study Guide - Brain Food
Subtitle: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power
Author: Lee Tang
Publisher: LMT Press (lmtpress.wordpress.com)
Copyright © 2018 by Lee Tang
All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
First Edition: September 2018
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN: 9781988970158 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 9781725858442 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 1725858444 (paperback)
Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and author make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of these contents and disclaim all warranties such as warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. The website addresses in the book were correct at the time going to print. However, the publisher and author are not responsible for the content of third-party websites, which are subject to change.
To my wife, Lillian, who is the source of energy and love for everything I do, and to Andrew and Amanda: watching you grow up has been a privilege.
For a complete list of books by Lee Tang and information about the author, visit Lee Tang’s site.
Books by Lee Tang
Step 1: Understanding Neuro-Nutrition
1. The Looming Brain Health Crisis
2. Introducing the Human Brain
3. The Water of Life
4. The Skinny on Brain Fat
5. The Benefits of Protein
6. Carbs, Sugars, and More Sweet Things
7. Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals
8. Food Is Information
9. The World’s Best Brain Diets
10. It’s Not All About Food
Step 2: Eating for Cognitive Power
11. A Holistic Approach to Brain Health
12. Be Mindful of Quality Over Quantity
13. Dietary Guidelines for Optimal Cognitive Fitness
Step 3: Toward the Optimal Brain Diet
14. The Three Levels of Neuro-Nutrition Care
15. Beginner Level
16. Intermediate Level
17. Advanced Level
About the Author
Plea from the Author
“Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, “ by Lisa Mosconi, PhD
The book explains how food breaks down into nutrients, and how these nutrients feed our brain. It explores the connection between nutrition and cognition and explains which foods are needed by the brain for optimal nourishment. It also provides an ultimate plan for a healthy brain, including comprehensive lists of what to eat and what to avoid.
Lisa Mosconi, PhD, is the associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic and an associate professor of neuroscience in neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Mosconi holds a dual PhD degree in neuroscience and nuclear medicine from the University of Florence, Italy, and is a board-certified integrative nutritionist and holistic healthcare practitioner. She was the founder and former director of the Nutrition and Brain Fitness Lab at the New York University School of Medicine.
This guide is a summary and not a critique/review of the book. The summary may not be organized chapter-wise but summarizes the book’s main ideas, viewpoints, and arguments. It is NOT meant to be a replacement, but a supplement to help you understand the book’s key ideas and recommendations.
THE LOOMING BRAIN HEALTH CRISIS
Thanks to advances in medicine and better living standards, our life expectancy has been rising over the last two centuries. But the increase in lifespan may not be additional years of high-quality health. As we age, our body deteriorates, causing many age-related conditions such as hearing loss, blindness, arthritis, respiratory problems, and cancer. The greater concern is that our brain also deteriorates, causing us to lose our memory and cognitive functions, resulting in dementia.
Forty-six million people are living with dementia worldwide today, and this number will skyrocket to 132 million by the year 2050. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and those related to Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. As people live longer, their chance of getting these disorders is increasing.
Unlike the rest of our body where cells are constantly replaced, most neurons in our brain stay with us for a lifetime, rendering them susceptible to damage. Many factors can damage our brain while we are still young, but we remain oblivious to it. No medication or supplement can delay or stop dementia’s progression because treating a patient once clinical symptoms have emerged is too late.
Recent medical research offers us hope. By using brain imaging techniques, scientists can see how Alzheimer’s develops and progresses in the brain 20-40 years before clinical symptoms emerge. To prevent Alzheimer’s, we must identify patients whose brains are silently fighting off the disease and start preventative treatments.
Genetic factors can increase your risk of dementia, but they don’t determine whether it happens. Most genes are pleomorphic, meaning environmental factors, such as lifestyle choices, change how they express their genetic features. We can delay or even prevent the disease by reducing the environmental factors that put us at risk. Recent research shows that addressing just a few of the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes could prevent over a third of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide.
For decades, the medical community has recommended dietary therapies for many conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. But many scientists are still reluctant to believe food choices might increase the risk of developing a brain disease.
To show that diet is important to mental health, Dr. Lisa Mosconi compared the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of dementia-free people eating two diets: a Mediterranean-style diet and a Western-style diet (fast foods, processed meats, dairy, refined sweets, and sodas). She found people eating a typical Western diet had more brain shrinkage, an indicator of neuronal loss and increased risk of future dementia. People who followed a Mediterranean diet had a better brain health than those on less healthy diets, regardless of whether they carry genetic risk factors for dementia.
There is evidence that adopting a brain-healthy diet is key to maintaining optimal cognitive capacities and delaying or preventing debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s. Eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle can also reduce the risk and severity of other illnesses that also affect the brain, such as heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.
Tackling a Looming Dementia Epidemic
A Mediterranean Diet Could Give You A Big, Youthful Brain - Newsy
INTRODUCING THE HUMAN BRAIN
Our body protects the brain by swaddling it in sheets of protective membranes inside a protective skull. A colorless fluid in the skull cushions it from shocks caused by sudden head movements. This fluid also helps the brain flushes away toxins, keeping it clean and functional.
The “blood-brain barrier” protects the brain from harmful substances from the bloodstream by restricting the passage of foreign harmful substances such as bacteria, toxins, and even medications to the brain. It allows only water, nutrients, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to enter the brain. It also controls the entry of chemical messengers and hormones that could interfere with brain activity.
The human brain has tripled in size since prehistoric times. For the first two-thirds of human’s history, the size of human brains was about 400–500 cc, the size of some apes today. The first evolutionary change in brain size occurred about 1.8 million years ago when Homo erectus made his debut with a brain size of 1000 cc. The second evolutionary change occurred about 500,000 years ago, increasing the brain size of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals to 1300–1500 cc, the size of our modern-day brains. Most of the increase occurred in parts of the brain specializing in cognitive functions such as language, self-awareness, and problem-solving.
There is a strong paleo-environmental and fossil evidence that early humans lived in proximity to water. Back then, the East African Rift Valley was a mosaic of extensive grassy woodlands, gallery forests, and wetlands with a lavish source of shallow and low-water fish and shellfish. The land also had an abundance of plants, fruits, vegetables, and weeds.
Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of omega-3 fat, proteins, vitamins, and minerals essential for brain function. Vegetables and fruits provide even more vitamins, minerals, and brain-friendly sugar. This high-quality diet increased our ancestors’ fat consumption crucial to the rapid brain evolution of Homo erectus. As the brain grew larger, our ancestors' eye-hand coordination improved. They grew taller and learned to stand, to walk, to run, and to hunt for preys.
Animal foods like fish and meat are both excellent sources of fat and protein. Fat helps the body to absorb minerals for strong bones. It also helps regulate body temperature, hormone production, and blood pressure. More important, fat acts as the body’s reserve tank of energy. This was an evolutionary advantage for our hunter-gatherer ancestors when confronted with periods of food shortage.
The early humans lack the ability to hunt for preys. Most energy-dense food in our ancestors’ diet came from gathering rather than hunting or fishing. Studies show that even in hunter-gatherer communities worldwide today, over 65 percent of the food comes from plant-based sources, while only 25 to 30 percent comes from hunting game.
While a basic tenet of the Paleo diet is that early humans did not eat grains, new evidence shows ancient grains were a recurrent feature on our ancestors’ menu 3.5 million years ago.
Although our ancestors discovered fire 3 million years ago, it was cooking that fueled the brain’s latest growth spurt 500,000 years ago. Cooking enabled humans to eat foods — such as wheat, rice, and potatoes — that humans cannot digest in their natural forms. It also enabled humans to devote less time to eating and to make do with smaller teeth and shorter intestines. Because shorter intestines use less energy, humans can devote more energy to power their jumbo brains.
The agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago provided a steady, ongoing access to food and afforded us a more sedentary lifestyle. Although we are better fed, we have fewer muscles and are more prone to diseases of affluence like obesity and diabetes.
The modern Western diet comprises refined grains, processed meats, and dairy products with little nutritional value. While our ancestors ate mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, many Americans today barely touch these foods in their natural state. The wild animals that used to roam the savanna contained more protein and a higher amount of brain-friendly fat than the domesticated chickens and cows in our modern diets. Wild-caught fish possess a much healthier omega-3 fat profile and fewer toxins and pollutants than farm-raised fish. Worse still, we consumed more unhealthy fat from processed baked goods, dairy products, and margarine.
Humans have lived as hunter-gatherers for 99 percent of history. While diets can change quickly, our genetic makeup is not so flexible. Most genetic variations that make us who we are today were already present when Homo sapiens emerged some 500,000 years ago. We are what we ate. This is also true for many disease-causing genes. As a result, our brains are just not prepared to consume the modern diet. This has major implications when we look at our present-day dietary needs.
How The Blood-Brain Barrier Protects You From Death
Evolution of the Human Brain
Why We Cook- How Cooking and Tools Influenced the Evolution of Our Brains and the Discovery of Fire
Western Diet Is Bad For Your Health
THE WATER OF LIFE
The brain’s nutritional requirements differ from the rest of the body because they have different compositions. Our body is 60 percent water, 20 percent protein, 15 percent fat, 2 percent carbohydrates, and some vitamins and minerals. The brain is 80 percent water, 11 percent fat, 8 percent proteins, 3 percent vitamins and minerals, and a pinch of carbs. To function optimally, the human brain requires over 45 nutrients (called brain-essential nutrients) derived from the five basic components of our food: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
You can last weeks without food but only days without water. Every chemical reaction occurring in the brain involve water. Water is indispensable for energy production because it carries oxygen needed by the cells to produce energy. Water also plays a structural role, filling in the spaces between brain cells. It also helps to form proteins, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste products. Brain cells require a delicate balance of water and other elements such as minerals and salts to work. As little as 3 to 4 percent decrease in water intake will affect the brain’s fluid balance, causing issues like fatigue, brain fog, reduced energy, headaches, and mood swings.
Dehydration occurs when we use or lose more water than we take in, and the body doesn’t have enough fluids to carry out its normal functions. Dehydration disrupts energy processes and causes loss of electrolytes (minerals that help you stay hydrated). MRI studies show that dehydration causes brain shrinkage, which can be reversed by drinking more water.
The prescription is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Research shows drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day can boost your brain’s performance by 30 percent, depending upon your age, environment, and activity level. For example, we need more water in warm climates; professional athletes need more water (and electrolytes) than someone sedentary; we all need more water as we get older.
The health of your body and brain depends upon your consumption of hard water—plain water high in minerals like calcium and magnesium. Replacing water with beverages that contain unwanted fat, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives defeat the purpose because these additives promote dehydration and weight gain.
Coffee and black tea contain caffeine. When you drink coffee or black tea, the caffeine dehydrates you as you drink it, rendering its water content less than effective.
Spring water contains valuable minerals, salts, and sulfur compounds.