In the last two months we talked about how great black coffee was and how to preserve those important senses of hearing and smell.  Now let’s discuss the new data about the non-liquid part of your food choices.

I’ve told you the only organ in your body where size matters is your hippocampus – the memory relay center in your brain.      

The last time you couldn’t remember where you put your keys, did you wish you had the memory you had 20 years ago? For those of you who would simply like to improve your memory and keep your cognitive powers as sharp as possible, a study – across 10 countries where folks eat various diets – may show you a simple solution. Eat a plant-based diet, starting at as young an age as possible. 

Basically, it works like this: to recall information, your neurons need to communicate with each other. One sends a message to another; the receiver gets the message and that connection is what basically builds bridges of information that you can use and recall when needed. And those bridges increase your hippocampal size. Breaking down or not building those bridges causes a small hippocampus. 

What breaks down those bridges? For one, lack of use. If you don’t constantly send and receive messages, those bridges won’t get traveled on, nobody will maintain them and they’ll eventually crumble and fall apart. 

Here’s the other thing about those bridges of information: they get built and solidified with information. But they can get enhanced – or compromised – by all kinds of elements and influences. That’s where this new study about food comes in. The wrong kind of food works as extreme weather leading to your inflammatory mediators tearing down the bridges. The right kind of food works as bridge-builders and bridge-protectors –

keeping your hippocampus big and working, and working faster.

We’re not suggesting an apple a day will prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but the point of this column is that you can – and should – leverage food in your favor. In this case – and especially if you have a family history of memory problems, or have genetic tests that indicate you are at increased risk of these problems – food is a great opportunity to have what goes into your mouth influence what goes on between your ears.

That’s where the new data reinforce prior data. Researchers, writing in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found  “the most important dietary link to Alzheimer’s appears to be meat consumption, with eggs (the yolk especially due to its protein composition) and high-fat dairy also contributing.” 

To protect your brain and heart while slashing your risk of dementia, eat plenty of whole grains, legumes and fresh produce – foods packed with polyphenols that help reduce inflammation. Add a healthy exercise routine of 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent. And if you want to really rev up your cognitive processing skills, practice the brain game, Double Decision, from BrainHQ. 


Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. 

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