Category Archives: brain

Fasting may protect against disease; some say it may even be good for the brain

By Emma Young — New Scientist, Published: December 31
In 1908, Linda Hazzard, an American with some training as a nurse, published “Fasting for the Cure of Disease,” which claimed that minimal food was the route to recovery from a variety of illnesses, including cancer. Hazzard was jailed after one of her patients died of starvation. But what if she was, at least partly, right?
A new surge of interest in fasting suggests that it might indeed help people with cancer. It might also reduce the risk of developing cancer, guard against diabetes and heart disease, help control asthma and even stave off Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
“We know from animal models,” says Mark Mattson at the National Institute on Aging, “that if we start an intermittent fasting diet at what would be the equivalent of middle age in people, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Until recently, most studies linking diet with health and longevity focused on calorie restriction. They have had some impressive results, with the life span of various lab animals lengthened by up to 50 percent after their caloric intake was cut in half. But these effects do not seem to extend to primates. A 23-year study of macaques found that although calorie restriction delayed the onset of age-related diseases, it had no impact on life span. So other factors, such as genetics, may be more important for human longevity.
That’s bad news for anyone who has gone hungry for decades in the hope of living longer, but the finding has not deterred researchers who study fasting. They point out that although fasting obviously involves cutting calories — at least on specific days — it brings about biochemical and physiological changes that daily dieting does not. Besides, calorie restriction may leave people susceptible to infections and biological stress, whereas fasting, done properly, should not.
Some even argue that we are evolutionarily adapted to going without food intermittently. “The evidence is pretty strong that our ancestors did not eat three meals a day plus snacks,” Mattson says. “Our genes are geared to being able to cope with periods of no food.”
Trying out a fast
Fasting will leave you feeling crummy in the short term because it takes time for your body to break psychological and biological habits, researchers say. There isn’t really agreement, though, on what fasting entails. To research this article, I am trying out the “5:2” diet, which allows me 600 calories in a single meal on each of two weekly “fast” days. (The normal recommended daily intake is about 2,000 calories for a woman and 2,500 for a man.) Proving that fasting is not necessarily about losing weight, I am allowed to eat whatever I want on the five non-fast days.
A more draconian regimen than the 5:2 plan has restricted-calorie fasts every other day. Then there’s total fasting, in which participants go without food for one to five days. (Fasting for more than about a week is considered dangerous.) This might be a one-off experience, or repeated weekly or monthly.
Different regimens have different effects on the body. A fast is considered to start about 10 to 12 hours after a meal, when you have used up all the available glucose in your blood and start converting glycogen stored in liver and muscle cells into glucose to use for energy. If the fast continues, there is a gradual move toward breaking down stored body fat, and the liver produces “ketone bodies,” short molecules that are byproducts of the breakdown of fatty acids. These can be used by the brain as fuel. This process is in full swing three to four days into a fast.
Various hormones are also affected. For example, production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) drops early and reaches very low levels by Day 3 or 4. It is similar in structure to insulin, which also becomes scarcer with fasting, and high levels of both have been linked to cancer.
As for treating cancer, Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, thinks that short-term complete fasts maximize the benefits. He has found that a 48-hour total fast slowed the growth of five of eight types of cancer in mice, the effect tending to be more pronounced the more fasts the animals undertook.
Fasting is harder on cancer cells than on normal cells, he says. That’s because the mutations that cause cancer lead to rapid growth under the physiological conditions in which they arose, but they can be at a disadvantage when conditions changes. This could also explain why fasting combined with conventional cancer treatment provides a double whammy. Mice with gliomas — very aggressive forms of cancer and the most commonly diagnosed brain tumor in people — were more thantwice as likely to survive a 28-day study if they underwent a 48-hour fast accompanied by radiation therapy as were those that did not fast.
Could fasting prevent cancers from developing in the first place? Evidence is scant.
Longo says there are “very good reasons” why it should. He points out that high levels of IGF-1 and glucose in the blood and being overweight are risk factors for cancer, and they can all be improved by fasting.
Another risk factor is insulin, says Michelle Harvie at Britain’s University of Manchester. Studying a group of women whose family history put them at high risk of developing breast cancer, she put half of them on a diet that cut calories by about 25 percent and half on a 5:2 fast. After six months, both groups showed a reduction in blood insulin levels, but the reduction was greater in the fasting group. Harvie’s team is now analyzing breast biopsies to see whether this translates to fewer of the genetic changes associated with increased cancer risk.
The effect on diabetes
High insulin is also associated with Type 2 diabetes, so perhaps it is no surprise that fasting shows promise there, too. At the Intermountain Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, Benjamin Horne has found that a 24-hour water-only fast, performed monthly, raises levels of human growth hormone. That hormone triggers the breakdown of fat for energy use, reducing insulin levels and other metabolic markers of glucose metabolism. As a result, people lost weight, and their risk of getting diabetes and coronary heart disease was reduced. Alternate-day fasting (with a 500-calorie lunch for women and a 600-calorie meal for men on fast days) has similar benefits, says Krista Varady of the University of Illinois. She has seen improvements in people’s levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol,” and blood pressure in volunteers eating either a low-fat or high-fat diet on “feeding” days.
For people who are overweight, any kind of intermittent fasting diet will probably help reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems, Mattson says. In 2007, he found another benefit, too. He put 10 overweight people with asthma on an alternate-day incomplete fast and found that their asthma symptoms improved after just a few weeks. Blood markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein, also decreased, suggesting that the fast was helping to moderate their overactive immune system.
Whether fasting would benefit normal-weight people with asthma or other conditions associated with an overactive immune response remains to be seen. There is some evidence that alternate-day fasting can lower their levels of blood fat. However, Mattson suspects that with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, fasting may not be as beneficial for people of normal weight as it is for people who are overweight, simply because they are already likely to be in pretty good shape, metabolically speaking.
How the brain reacts
Mattson has, however, identified another effect of fasting that he believes can benefit everyone: It is good for the brain. “If you look at an animal that’s gone without food for an entire day, it becomes more active,” he says. “Fasting is a mild stressor that motivates the animal to increase activity in the brain.” From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense, because if you are deprived of food, your brain needs to work harder to help you find something to eat.
His studies suggest that alternate-day fasting, with a single meal of about 600 calories on the fast day, can boost the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor by 50 to 400 percent, depending on the brain region. This protein is involved in the generation of new brain cells and plays a role in learning and memory. It can also protect brain cells from the changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In mice engineered to develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, alternate-day fasting begun in middle age delayed the onset of memory problems by about six months. “This is a large effect,” Mattson says, perhaps equivalent to 20 years in humans.
So, what about the common advice to start the day with a good breakfast? Mattson believes it is flawed, pointing out that the studies supporting this idea were based on schoolchildren who usually ate breakfast; a decline in their academic performance might simply be due to the ill effects that occur when people begin fasting.
Mattson skips breakfast and lunch five days a week, then has dinner and normal weekend meals with his family. Varady has tried alternate-day fasting, but she likes to eat dinner with her 18-month-old child and husband, so she does all her eating within an eight-hour period each day.
Harvie sounds a cautious note for anyone thinking of giving fasting a go. “We still don’t know exactly who should be fasting, how often or how many days a week,” she says. Also, it may not be without risks. One study in rats, for example, found that an alternate-day fast for six months reduced the heart’s ability to pump blood.
There is also the fact that fasting is difficult. Varady finds that 10 to 20 percent of people who enroll in her studies drop out, unable to stick to the regime. This may be less of a problem in the future, though. Some researchers are investigating the possibility that you can get some of the health benefits of fasting simply by reducing protein intake.
As I count down the minutes to the end of my fast, I can’t help but wish them success.
This story was produced by New Scientist magazine and can be read in full at www.newscientist.com.

3 ways to improve memory and boost brain power

brain

by Jonathan Landsman 

(NaturalNews) Perhaps the greatest threat to brain function is chronic stress. Challenged by fear and anxiety, the body will produce excessive amounts of cortisol, the “stress hormone”, which eventually damages the brain’s memory center. And, although cortisol is a necessary hormone for survival purposes, excessive amounts destroy our adrenals, immune system plus much more.

Eliminate brain fog – naturally! On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, a LIVE internet radio broadcast – Dr. Holly Lucille, a nationally recognized leader in naturopathic medicine will teach us how to improve thyroid and adrenal function; elevate our moods; increase our energy and improve mental clarity.

Visit: http://www.naturalhealth365.com and enter your email address for free show details.

Prevent adrenal fatigue and elevate your mood – naturally

Obviously, it goes (almost) without saying, if you can reduce the stress in your life by changing your perspective or making changes in your lifestyle habits – do it. But, nutritionally speaking, you may want to consider boosting your intake of vitamin C to support healthy adrenal function. Remember, the adrenals produce stress hormones and without them – your ability to handle tough situations is diminished.

According to Dr. Lucille, “during stress, the adrenal glands stockpile this antioxidant to protect against free-radical damage. However, ongoing stress depletes this vital nutrient from the adrenal glands.” By the way, Dr. Lucille recommends at least 250 to 500 milligrams (mg) per day of vitamin C for anyone concerned about the negative effects of stress and maintaining a clear mind.

Sharpen your mind with chocolate and essential fatty acids

Cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, is loaded with brain-boosting antioxidants called flavonoids. Just don’t go and buy any (commercial) brands filled with excess simple sugars, poor quality fats and nasty chemical additives. Scientific research shows that small amounts of dark chocolate, consumed on a regular basis, can improve blood flow to the brain – which enhances cognitive andmemory test scores.

Did you know that the human brain is composed of significant amounts of fat? If you want to avoid being “brain dead” – be sure to include lots of omega-3’s in your diet. Naturally, especially these days, you want to be careful about the quality of fat you eat. If you’re not comfortable eating fish – several times per week – then a good quality omega-3 supplement of about 500 – 1,000 mg per day could help improve brain function.

This week’s guest: Dr. Holly Lucille, a nationally-recognized leader in naturopathic medicine

Learn how to improve memory, brain function and eliminate chronic stress in your life – Thu. Nov. 8

Dr. Holly Lucille is a nationally recognized and licensed naturopathic doctor, an educator and a natural products consultant. She is the author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Women’s Guide to Safe, Natural, Hormone Health and serves on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Board of Directors.

An acclaimed expert in the field of naturopathic medicine, Dr. Holly lectures throughout the nation on a variety of natural health topics. Regularly quoted as an expert in both consumer and peer journals, in 2007, Dr. Holly was listed in Time Magazine’s “Alt List” as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People.”

Eliminate brain fog – naturally! On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, a LIVE internet radio broadcast – Dr. Holly Lucille, a nationally recognized leader in naturopathic medicine will teach us how to improve thyroid and adrenal function; elevate our moods; increase our energy and improve mental clarity.

Visit: http://www.naturalhealth365.com and enter your email address for free show details.

Dietary proteins signal brain satiety to help prevent overeating and obesity


by John Phillip 

(NaturalNews) It’s no secret that overconsumption of calories, especially those from high calorie refined and processed carbohydrate junk foods is making America fat and taking nearly a decade off our natural lifespan. Since the early 1970’s, our food supply has been infused with synthesized sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup that is promptly metabolized to fat after ingestion. Nutrition experts have recommended including a natural protein source with each meal to slow glucose and carbohydrate absorption as an aid to healthy weight management.

Publishing in the journal Cell, researchers from the Universite de Lyon in France have now mapped out the signals that travel between your gut and your brain to generate the feeling of satiety after eating a protein-rich meal. Understanding this back and forth loop between the brain and gut may pave the way for future approaches in the treatment and prevention of obesity.

Proteins are found to signal the brain to prevent overeating, leading to obesity

Testing on a mouse model known to accurately simulate the digestive properties of humans, researchers were able to determine that proteins stimulate the secretion of glucose in the intestinal tract. The researchers charted a very complex series of steps that ultimately notifies the brain that we have eaten and are no longer in need of food. Digestion of fast-releasing carbohydrates or sugars does not trigger the same feedback mechanism, and encourages excess food consumption.

The critical finding reported by the research team was that proteins stimulate ‘mu-opioid receptors’ (MOR’s, which also bind morphine) on nerves found in the walls of the portal vein, the major blood vessel that drains blood from the gut. Researchers found that peptides, the products of digested dietary proteins, block MOR’s to curb appetite. The peptides send signals to the brain that are then transmitted back to the gut to stimulate the intestine to release glucose and suppress the desire to eat.

The lead study author, Dr. Gilles Mithieux concluded “These findings explain the satiety effect of dietary protein, which is a long-known but unexplained phenomenon… they provide a novel understanding of the control of food intake and of hunger sensations, which may offer novel approaches to treat obesity in the future.” Nutritionists recommend consuming a natural source of protein with each meal and avoidance of sugary treats and refined carbohydrates, as well as between meal snacks. Good sources of protein include nuts, seeds, legumes and lean chicken, eggs and beef (always select free-range, organically fed choices and limit to no more than ten percent of total calories consumed) to aid weight management practices.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.cell.com/retrieve/pii/S009286741200760X

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/ind-te070612.php

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-07-protein-meal-brain-full.html

About the author:
John Phillip is a Health Researcher and Author who writes regularly on the cutting edge use of diet, lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation to enhance and improve the quality and length of life. John is the author of ‘Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan’, a comprehensive EBook explaining how to use Diet, Exercise, Mind and Targeted Supplementation to achieve your weight loss goal. VisitMy Optimal Health Resource to continue reading the latest health news updates, and to download your Free 48 page copy of ‘Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan’.

Meditation and sex have the same effects on your brain, study shows


by PF Louis 

(NaturalNews) The approach of western science is usually totally mechanical. So the inclusion of that which is not tangible is often excluded. Neuroscience delves into the brain’s pleasure points according to what areas “light up” in the brain during sex and during meditation.

This type of research tends to oversimplify meditation while honoring sexual pleasure as an ultimate attainment. However, some writings from that quarter of neuroscience do acknowledge that meditation practiced regularly is a more pragmatic practice for steady mood enhancement and opening to pleasurable moments in all facets of life.

The brain and the mind

But does this imply that pleasure is derived from brain function? There are those who would argue that the brain is not the mind, but a cellular switchboard connecting subtle realms to physiological activity. In other words, they consider the brain to be a physical manifestation of the mind, which is not material.

Some adventurous scientists do get into subtle energy, especially with energetic medicine. Though often applied with contrived technological apparatus, they do usually appreciate that they are taking a western approach to what Eastern health practitioners and mystics have understood centuries.

Furthermore, there have been studies performed by western scientists and MDs who have gathered information from so called near death experiences. Many are actually bodily death and returning to a re-enlivened body experiences. Those who had the experiences accurately reported what they were seeing from outside the body.

A woman was pronounced dead in an operating room while heavily anesthetized. She was brought back to life and was able to accurately describe everything that had gone on in the operating room, to the doctors’ and nurses’ astonishment. She had calmly observed it all, including her lifeless body.

These can be considered inexplicable, even fictitious. Many materialistic scientists bring it down to chemical reactions and neurological electrical activities in the brain.

Those who describe witnessing other parts of the physical universe or experiencing a blissful eternal light that touches the source of all life are dismissed by materialist scientists as having hallucinations from within the brain.

Yet those who have those experiences from near or actual death come back with a sense of inner calm and renewed purpose. All this came from the fatty cells, nerve synapses, and electrical currents within the brain? Eastern mystical and spiritual masters say no, we are not our bodies.

Out of body experiences (OBE) and near death experiences (NDE) indicate this. We are souls temporarily in bodies to experience and live out karma. Real bliss transcends bodily pleasure.

Comparing and contrasting meditation and sex

Many who constantly pursue the pleasures of sex come to realize there’s more pain and angst than pleasure in that pursuit. The orgasm comes and goes. Then it’s time to play games again instead of pursuing something more productive. That creates more karma.

Marriage traditionally involves the duty of creating offspring while hopefully enjoying a physical relationship with the spouse. Then comes the challenge of child rearing in an ever increasingly dangerous and unhealthy world.

Meditation practiced daily is available to help one experience a calmer mind and mood with a happier heart for dealing with life’s travails. You don’t need a cooperative partner, and by meditating well often you’ll be creating less karma.

The ultimate meditative experience is blissful oneness with the source of all life, regardless of what you name it. All religious labels refer to this same awareness, according to a few western philosophers, scientists, and mystics both western and eastern.

Meanwhile, we mortals can carry on better by meditating often to unravel some karma toward the ultimate goal of enlightenment, if not this life, then maybe a later one.

Fit heart can slow brain ageing, US researchers say

elderly man exercising
Heart and brain health appear to go hand in hand
Keeping your heart fit and strong can slow down the ageing of your brain, US researchers say.
A Boston University team found healthy people with sluggish hearts that pumped out less blood had “older” brains on scans than others.
Out of the 1,500 people studied, the team observed that the brain shrinks as it ages.
A poor cardiac output aged the brain by nearly two years on average, Circulation journal says.
The link was seen in younger people in their 30s who did not have heart disease, as well as elderly people who did.
“Start Quote
It is too early to dole out health advice based on this one finding but it does suggest that heart and brain health go hand in hand”
Dr Angela JeffersonLead researcher
Lead researcher Dr Angela Jefferson said: “These participants are not sick people. A very small number have heart disease. The observation that nearly a third of the entire sample has low cardiac index and that lower cardiac index is related to smaller brain volume is concerning and requires further study.”
The participants with smaller brain volumes on magnetic resonance imaging did not show obvious clinical signs of reduced brain function.
But the researchers say the shrinkage may be an early sign that something is wrong.
More severe shrinkage or atrophy occurs with dementia.
Dr Jefferson said there were several theories for why reduced cardiac index – how much blood the heart pumps out relative to body size – might affect brain health.
For example, a lower volume of blood pumping from the heart might reduce flow to the brain, providing less oxygen and fewer nutrients needed for brain cells.
“It is too early to dole out health advice based on this one finding but it does suggest that heart and brain health go hand in hand,” she said.
Experts say a person’s cardiac index is fairly static – meaning it would be difficult to change it if it were low, without doing pretty intensive exercise training.
Dr Clinton Wright, a brain and memory expert from the University of Miami, said: “Whether lower cardiac index leads to reduced brain volumes and accelerates neurodegeneration on an eventual path to dementia is not yet clear.
“To address the health needs of our ageing population, a better understanding of the links between cardiovascular disease and brain structure and function will be required.”
The Boston School of Medicine team will now continue to study the individuals in the trial to see if and how the brain changes affect memory and cognitive abilities over time.

Wikio

Phys Ed: Your Brain on Exercise

JULY 7, 2010, 12:01 AM

Jim Wehtje/Getty Images
What goes on inside your brain when you exercise? That question has preoccupied a growing number of scientists in recent years, as well as many of us who exercise. In the late 1990s, Dr. Fred Gage and his colleagues at the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute in San Diego elegantly proved that human and animal brains produce new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis) and that exercise increases neurogenesis. The brains of mice and rats that were allowed to run on wheels pulsed with vigorous, newly born neurons, and those animals then breezed through mazes and other tests of rodent I.Q., showing that neurogenesis improves thinking.
But how, exactly, exercise affects the staggeringly intricate workings of the brain at a cellular level has remained largely mysterious. A number of new studies, though, including work published this month by Mr. Gage and his colleagues, have begun to tease out the specific mechanisms and, in the process, raised new questions about just how exercise remolds the brain.
Some of the most reverberant recent studies were performed at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. There, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bone-morphogenetic protein or BMP in the brains of laboratory mice. BMP, which is found in tissues throughout the body, affects cellular development in various ways, some of them deleterious. In the brain, BMP has been found to contribute to the control of stem cell divisions. Your brain, you will be pleased to learn, is packed with adult stem cells, which, given the right impetus, divide and differentiate into either additional stem cells or baby neurons. As we age, these stem cells tend to become less responsive. They don’t divide as readily and can slump into a kind of cellular sleep. It’s BMP that acts as the soporific, says Dr. Jack Kessler, the chairman of neurology at Northwestern and senior author of many of the recent studies. The more active BMP and its various signals are in your brain, the more inactive your stem cells become and the less neurogenesis you undergo. Your brain grows slower, less nimble, older.
But exercise countermands some of the numbing effects of BMP, Dr. Kessler says. In work at his lab, mice given access to running wheels had about 50 percent less BMP-related brain activity within a week. They also showed a notable increase in Noggin, a beautifully named brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist. The more Noggin in your brain, the less BMP activity exists and the more stem cell divisions and neurogenesis you experience. Mice at Northwestern whose brains were infused directly with large doses of Noggin became, Dr. Kessler says, “little mouse geniuses, if there is such a thing.” They aced the mazes and other tests.
Whether exercise directly reduces BMP activity or increases production of Noggin isn’t yet known and may not matter. The results speak for themselves. “If ever exercise enthusiasts wanted a rationale for what they’re doing, this should be it,” Dr. Kessler says. Exercise, he says, through a complex interplay with Noggin and BMP, helps to ensure that neuronal stem cells stay lively and new brain cells are born.
But there are caveats and questions remaining, as the newest experiment from Dr. Gage’s lab makes clear. In that study, published in the most recent issue of Cell Stem Cell, BMP signaling was found to be playing a surprising, protective role for the brain’s stem cells. For the experiment, stem cells from mouse brains were transferred to petri dishes and infused with large doses of Noggin, hindering BMP activity. Without BMP signals to inhibit them, the stem cells began dividing rapidly, producing hordes of new neurons. But over time, they seemed unable to stop, dividing and dividing again until they effectively wore themselves out. The same reaction occurred within the brains of living (unexercised) mice given large doses of Noggin. Neurogenesis ramped way up, then, after several weeks, sputtered and slowed.  The “pool of active stem cells was depleted,” a news release accompanying the study reported. An overabundance of Noggin seemed to cause stem cells to wear themselves out, threatening their ability to make additional neurons in the future.
This finding raises the obvious and disturbing question: can you overdose on Noggin by, for instance, running for hours, amping up your production of the protein throughout? The answer, Dr. Gage says, is, almost certainly, no. “Many people have been looking into” that issue, he says. But so far, “there has not been any instance of a negative effect from voluntary running” on the brain health of mice. Instead, he says, it seems that the effects of exercise are constrained and soon plateau, causing enough change in the activity of Noggin and BMP to shake slumbering adult stem cells awake, but not enough to goose them into exhausting themselves.
Still, if there’s not yet any discernible ceiling on brain-healthy exercise, there is a floor. You have to do something. Walk, jog, swim, pedal — the exact amount or intensity of the exercise required has not been determined, although it appears that the minimum is blessedly low. In mice, Mr. Gage says, “even a fairly short period” of exercise “and a short distance seems to produce results.”

Wikio

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