Keep Your Brain

How important is your brain to you? Pretty important right? But because we can’t see it we ignore its state of health, often until it is too late. There are 3 externally observable states of brain health. Normal, cognitive decline (forgetting things, names, etc) and dementia. Not overly helpful. Especially when you consider that conditions like Alzheimer\’s start 30 to 50 years before they manifest as an observable disease. This decline can however be seen in a brain scan, and the work of scientist such as Dr. Daniel Amen can help us learn what things we should be aware of to keep our brains healthy.

Our brain accounts for 2% of our body weight, consumes 20-30% of our calorific intake. It is the consistency of soft butter and 60% of it’s solid mass is made up of fats. 25% of the cholesterol found in your body is in your brain, where it is essential for correct synaptic firing and as a powerful antioxidant.

When you consider the brain is the consistency of butter, kept in a hard bone shell, it doesn’t take much thought to realise that banging it around is not a great idea. Contact sports like rugby and boxing damage the brain. People who drink alcohol everyday have smaller brains. High blood pressure increases your likelihood of getting dementia. Certain medical drugs such as antidepressants, cholesterol lowering drugs and sleeping pills accelerate mental decline. People who are overweight have reduced physical function of the brain as well as smaller brains than slim people. Which moves us on nicely to diet. Most people who are overweight are hooked on carbohydrates – craving sugary, sweet foods. A diet of predominantly carbohydrate foods increases your risk of dementia by a factor of 5. A diet high in fats – nuts, seeds and healthy oils however reduces your risk of dementia by 42%.

So there is common message here when it comes to diet, weight loss and brain health. Sugar makes us fat, makes us crave more sugar, and it destroys the brain. The way to break the sugar craving is to increase healthy fats in your diet – the exact same foods your brain needs more of. The low fat diet obsession of the last 50 years is highly damaging to health!

One of the best oils for the brain is coconut oil. Much success has been had using coconut oil to actually treat Alzheimer’s. This is since the miraculous discovery by Dr Mary Newport who’s husband had developed the disease, and who’s symptoms were largely reversed with the administering of 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day.

Another essential oil for the brain is omega 3. We just don’t get enough. Oily fish, fish and krill oil supplements, flax oil and chia seed oils are the best, richest sources of omega 3s. For me chia seed oil is a revolution. I’d rather not take fish or krill oil and I don’t like the taste of flax oil, but chia seed oil provided high quality omega 3 with a very agreeable flavour.

Another critical factor in brain health is – if your don’t use it you’ll loose it. If you want to keep your brain, keep it active, doing brain games like scrabble and sports like tennis and table tennis, that make many parts of the brain work at once. Having an active social life and doing physical exercise are also important.

Stay smart, eat more healthy fats and a diet rich in antioxidants food like fruits, veg and raw chocolate!

Nuts About Coconut

Coconut oil is a unique and amazing food. In fact it is more than a food because it provides many health benefits beyond the nourishment it gives us. These benefits include its anti-bacteria, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic properties as well as being a powerful detoxifier, whilst completely safe and nourishing to the body.

What makes coconut so unique in the world of food and fats in particular? To start with it has a very high saturated fat content – 92%. Quite a surprising when compared with butter which contains 66% saturated fats, or palm oil with 51%. Secondly it is a what is termed a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA). The main fatty acid found in coconut oil is lauric acid with a structure containing a 12 carbon chain. Saturated fats like coconut complement the fluid, reactive nature of highly unsaturated fats like omega 3. In fact coconut oil is an excellent oil to take with omega 3, as it will increase itʼs absorption into the body. Saturated fats like lauric acid are great for weight loss because they are the most effective way to switch off our appetite by stimulating leptin – the hormone that tells the brain weʼre satiated. MCFAʼs can also speed up metabolism, further benefiting weight loss.

MCFAʼs have powerful antimicrobial properties. The sebaceous glands of the skin secrete an MCFA to protect the skin from pathogenic bacteria. Likewise mothers milk contains MCFAʼs that protect and nourishing her baby at the same time.

The anti-bacteria and anti-viral properties of lauric acid works by disrupting the lipid (fat) membranes of certain bacteria and virus. The following viruses are effectively killed by lauric acid: epstein-barr, influenza, leukemia and hepatitis C viruses, as are the following bacterial infections: listeria monocytogenes, helicobacter pylori, staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus agalactiae, gram-positive and gram negative organisms.

Coconut oil also contains caprylic acid – another MCFA, this time 8 carbons in length. Caprylic acid like lauric acid is anti-microbial and particularly known for itʼs powerful antifungal properties. Coconut oil is therefore a good idea as part of any regime tackling candidiasis. Coconut oil has also been seen to effectively treat tapeworms, giardia and other parasitic and fungal conditions.

There is mounting evidence to show that persistent internal infections (bacterial and viral) contribute to chronic disease. For example, bacteria infections like helicobacter pylori are thought to contribute to heart disease. Yet helicobacter pylori is one of the bacteria that coconut oil is very effective at annihilating. This is not the only reason to take coconut oil to guard against heart disease. Coconut oil has been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), VLDL and triglycerides, while increasing HDL (good cholesterol). In one study it was also demonstrated to reduce Lp(a) – the close relative of LDL which is in fact by far the most accurate indicator of heart disease risk.

Alzheimer\’s suffers have been shown to have a deficiency in cholesterol in the brain. In fact high blood cholesterol is positively correlated with longevity in those aged over 85! The doctors donʼt tell us that when they hand out statins! Coconut oil is highly protective against oxidative stress. So it frees up cholesterol from itʼs role as an antioxidant, so it can get on with itʼs more important role of maintaining the brains structural integrity and correct synaptic firing.

Coconut oil also provided the brain with an alternative energy source in the form of ketones.

Coconut oil has been shown to have benefit in many more conditions including cancer, Parkinson\’s, osteoporosis, epilepsy, liver and kidney disease, thyroid function, digestive disorders such as colitis, Crohnʼs, stomach ulcers and many more. So why not try introducing it into your diet. It is delicious!

Georgie Wingfield-Hayes

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