The phrase “we are what we eat” is true not only for the body, but the brain as well. A physical organ just like the heart or the liver, the brain thrives on natural, raw foods. Other foods readily available in our world today, however, not only raise the risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes, but may actually damage the brain itself.
1. Fast Foods (Fatty Foods)
You know it’s bad for you. Here’s another reason why. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, fatty foods damaged the hypothalamus region of the brain in animal studies. The hypothalamus produces hormones that control hunger, thirst, sleep, moods, and other natural rhythms in the body.
Rats and mice fed a high-fat diet similar to that of many Americans had inflamed hypothalamuses after one day, and after a short period of time where the body tried to repair the damage, the inflammation persisted for 8 more months until the end of the study.
Another study published in the journal Neurology found that eating fast food was connected with brain shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s. Researchers theorized that trans fats were the likely culprits.
2. Salty Foods
They’re hard on the heart, but research shows they’re hard on the brain, too. A three-year study of more than 1,200 people found that those participants with the highest daily sodium intake and the lowest level of exercise performed poorer over time on cognitive tests than those with low sodium intake and an active lifestyle.
3. Processed Foods
Artificial food additives, like preservatives and food dyes, have shown in studies to affect the cognitive functioning and behavior of some children. A 2007 study in Lancet showed that dietary intake of artificial food colorings and additives, particularly the preservative “benzoate,” resulted in an increase in hyperactivity.
Artificial food additives make up more than 3,000 chemicals that are added to foods. MSG, for example, used to flavor foods, was found in studies to destroy nerve cells in the brain, and to encourage seizure-like behavior. Another study in 1984 showed that so-called “exitotoxins,” food additives that affect the nervous system, were hazardous to the developing nervous systems of young children.
4. Fried Foods
Researchers from Spain found that compounds released from common cooking oils raised the risk of neurologic degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Such breakdown chemical structures known as “aldehydes” are formed when vegetable oils like sunflower oil are heated to normal frying temperatures. Researchers also tested olive and flaxseed oil and found the same results, with flaxseed and sunflower creating the most toxic aldehydes with the least amount of frying time.
5. Foods with Pesticide Residue
A recent study examining data from over 25 million children found that organophosphate pesticides may have effects on children’s IQ and on preterm birth and ADHD. Another study from Nature Neuroscience found that long-term exposure to a widely used pesticide kills brain cells and triggers symptoms associated with Parkinson’s. Researchers from the University of North Dakota also found a link between pesticide exposure and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Some areas of the brain displayed a loss of neurons in particular areas.
Do you manage your diet to protect your brain? Please share your story.
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Photo courtesy phantomswife (Sara) via Flickr.com.
“Does Fast Food Cause Brain Damage?” The Week, January 9, 2012, http://theweek.com/article/index/223096/does-fast-food-cause-brain-damage.
Jill Ettinger, “Fast Food, Trans Fats Linked to Alheimer’s,” The Canadian, January 8, 2012, http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/health/2012/01/08/2611.html.
Katie Moisse, “Too Much Salt, Too Little Exercise Bad for Brain,” ABC News, August 25, 2011.
Carol Ann Brannon, “Making the Connection: How What We Eat Impacts Learning,” Kids Enabled, http://www.kidsenabled.org/articles/index.php/200906/511/.
“Chemical Cuisine: Learn About Food Additives,” Center for Science in the Public Interest, http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#bht.
Olney JW, “Exitotoxic Food Additives—Relevance of Animal Studies to Human Safety,” Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol 1984 Nev-Dec;6(6): 455-62. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6152304.
John Phillip, “Toxic Compounds From Fried Foods Cause Cancer and Deteriorate Brain Health,” February 28, 2012, http://www.naturalnews.com/035088_fried_foods_aldehydes_toxic_compounds.html.
Bellinger, DC, “Chemical Exposures Cause Child IQ Losses that Rival Major Diseases,” Environmental Health News, February 24, 2012. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/2012/01/2012-0223-chemicals-iq-loss-similar-to-disease/.
Joseph B. Verrengia, “Study: Pesticides May Trigger Parkinson’s,” ABC News, November 6, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117843&page=1#.T4tsyHbCMYZ.