Friday, October 24, 2008

Eat Smart, Be Smart

They like to say that we cannot improve our intelligence. Recent studies have contradicted this as has my personal experience. There are a great many things we can do to improve our intelligence but to achieve maximum benefit requires careful management and a holistic approach to health. By "holistic" I do not mean that New Age crap or the continual popping of pills, but rather an integrated approach where we address many aspects of our lives. This includes:

  • Being happy. If you are lacking happiness then this is the first challenge you must address.
  • Sound sleep. There used to be the boast of how little sleep one could get by on. Great, welcome to future dementia.
  • Aerobic fitness. Absolutely essential.
  • Don't just exercise your brain, push it. Make it work. Read material that you find challenging, that makes you think, that challenges your preconceptions. One of my favourite quotes is:*Gelett Burgess: "If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead."
  • Remember that exercising the brain is not just about conceptual work, bodily exercises that require co-ordination and timing can also be very important. This is further highlighted by recent research indicating that simple physical training in co-ordination appears to be beneficial for some children with ADHD. This appears to be related to the cerebellum(little brain). This part of the CNS has been neglected for too long.
  • Eat well.
This study from the FASEB journal involved the administration of some supplements to gerbils. It was found that these readily available compounds enhanced their cognition. The nutshell goes like this:

DHA: an important omega 3 fat that is a substrate for NPD1, a neuroprotective compound that prevents apoptosis(programmed cell death).
Choline: an important component in cell walls and also a substrate for acetylcholine, the "memory neurotransmitter".

A news item on the study can be read here.

FASEB, July 2008

Dietary uridine enhances the improvement in learning and memory produced by administering DHA to gerbils


This study examined the effects on cognitive behaviors of giving normal adult gerbils three compounds, normally in the circulation, which interact to increase brain phosphatides, synaptic proteins, dendritic spines, and neurotransmitter release. Animals received supplemental uridine (as its monophosphate, UMP; 0.5%) and choline (0.1%) via the diet, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 300 mg/kg/day) by gavage, for 4 wk, and then throughout the subsequent period of behavioral training and testing. As shown previously, giving all three compounds caused highly significant (P<0.001)>

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