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Anti-ageing for the brain

MagazineDecember 2010 (Vol. 21 Issue 9)Anti-ageing for the brain

Here are eight things that can keep your brain alive and well

Here are eight things that can keep your brain alive and well.

Choline, for nerve tissue

Choline is a B vitamin, and its AI (adequate intake) is 425 mg/day for women (more in pregnant or breastfeeding women), and 550 mg/day for men. Professor Steven H. Zeisel, at the University of North Carolina, has shown that choline maintains nerve tissue and renders it stress-resistant ( Eggs, chicken, cod, spinach, cauliflower, kidney beans and peanuts are among the better sources of dietary choline.

Omega-3, for problem-solving

Omega-3 fats improve the rate of 'communication' between brain cells (Nat Rev Neurosci, 2008; 9: 568-78). Found in fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, it's also present in abundance in purslane (Portulaca oleracea), a succulent herb used in salads. It also contains vitamins A, C, some Bs and carotenoids, as well as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, and two types of pigments-reddish beta-cyanins and yellow beta-xanthins-which are potent antioxidants with antimutagenic proper-ties in laboratory studies. Fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup or 100 g) have 300-400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid, while 1 cup of cooked leaves has 90 mg of calcium, 560 mg of potassium and more than 2000 IU of vitamin A. Purslane has a pleasant, slightly sour, taste.

Chewing gum, for concentration

The action of chewing gum boosted recall by 35 per cent, especially in 'delayed word recall tests', where subjects have to remember a list of 10 words that they've used in sentences after 10-15 minutes ( chewing_ gum.php).

Mastic resin, from the Pistacia lentiscus tree, is a pleasantly aromatic resin that can be found in specialist Greek culinary shops. Known for its medicinal properties for centuries, more recent research has revealed that mastic gum-chewing can reduce cholesterol and ease high blood pressure, as well as lower Helicobacter pylori bacteria populations in the stomach ('The Magic Tree - Marvelous Masticha', in Epikouria Magazine, Autumn/Winter, 2005).

Regular exercise, for quick thinking

Regular physical exercise has benefits for cognitive function, learning and memory, and protects against neuro-degeneration as well as depression, especially in older people (Trends Neurosci, 2007; 30: 464-72).


Continuous, unremitting stress is one of the brain's worst enemies because, as the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol cascade through the brain, they damage the brain cells. However, it appears that transcendental meditation can effectively counteract such adverse effects (www.

Herbs, for good memory

Extraordinary research suggests that drinking about 500 mL of plant juice (either fruit or vegetables) every day can keep the memory intact ( So can taking a standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba (maidenhair tree), as this herb has consistently been shown to correct failing memory, loss of cognitive alertness, dementia and free-radical damage in the brain (Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 2000, 81: 668-78).

Antioxidants, for brain health

A laboratory study has identified an oxidized form of vitamin C-dehydroascorbic acid-that can cross the blood-brain barrier to be retained in the brain tissue. This points to oxidation of vitamin C as a potentially important step for the accumulation of this vitamin in the brain, and has implications for increasing the antioxidant potential within the brain for mopping-up free radicals (J Clin Invest, 1997; 100: 2842-8).

Keeping the brain supple

To maintain mental agility, you have to do something unexpected, something for which the brain is untrained. By getting yourself out of the rut of the habitual and automatic, you provoke your brain towards maximum performance in a way that nothing else would.

All you need is a ballpoint pen, a sheet of paper and a small square mirror. Take the pen in your writing hand and, with your other hand, hold the mirror upright along the upper edge of the paper and facing towards you. Now, in capital letters, write your name in such a way that it can be read correctly in the mirror-and you must only look into the mirror while you attempt to do this. Once you've mastered this, you can attempt to write long and complex sentences.

By doing the new and unaccustomed, you are reawakening that part of your brain that deals with the myriad of unaccustomed things that you were confronted with for the first time when you were an infant.

Harald Gaier



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