Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Brainpower & Nutrition & Exercise" -> Phonemes and Tonality (Part III)

Part III: What Can We Do With Our Brain

Okay, so you want to be smarter. You want to be a better musician. You want to catch on faster.

I'm going to introduce you to four main ideas:

1. Use it or lose it
2. Fish oil is brain oil
3. Blueberries on the brain
4. Sweat to the brainpower

Now that we have determined the brain basic shape is frozen, what can we do with it?

1. Use it or lose it

If you are young, the key ingredient is to use it. If you take a developing rat, and destroy its eye and allow it to live it’s life, you find out a very curious thing. If you kill and examine the rats brain, you will find that the center for visual processing has fallen apart. The very act of not using the brain will guaranty to destroy it.

However, vigorous active thought (and we’ve all said “my brain hurts from too much thinking”) will cause the your brain cells to grow it’s internal system. (Technically, your axons and dendrites will be healthy, like a tree roots feeding your brain cell.) Make your brain work.

With this in mind, stay away from television. Without going into the details, TV is an excellent way of NOT making your brain work, and it will lead to Alzheimer’s disease. (Read my first posting for the abstracts.)

Do you want to get better at music? Then study music. Do you want to become a better artist? Then study your art. Do you wan to be a better golfer? Then work on your stroke. All of these activities will cause your brain to develop.

2. Fish oil is brain oil

There is one more cross over point for both young and the old. This is fish oil.

The research on Omega-3 capsules is like science fiction (and since most of it is made by just a few manufacturers, Wal-Mart will be a fine place to buy it). However, I will leave the abstracts to a later posting. What is really interesting is to realize that to have a health brain, you need to have building blocks.

You brain is made up mainly of fat—60% of your brain is fat. Being called a “fat head” may not be an insult, because to have no fat would mean to have no brain. However, brain fat cannot be made from animal fat, and our own body can’t make it from nothing. The building block of the brain is fish oil or docosahexaenoic acid. If you read Omega-3 capsule at Wal-Mart, you’ll see that they are made up of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (a close relative of DHA that your body can turn into DHA.)

Don’t even think about just eating fish. Unfortunately, the FDA tells us that the fish we eat has problems with mercury, so the best bet is distilled fish oil. Or Omega-3 capsules as they are know. Buy the cheapest kind and keep them in the refrigerator. Pop about 3 per day. After 5 or 6 months, you’ll have some of the basic building blocks to build your brain. I am with the camp that believes that there is a clear correlation between eating fish and intelligence, such as the Japanese testing higher on IQ tests. The Japanese would be better off, however, just popping a pill.

However, don’t over push it, since high doses of Omega-3 may suppress the immune system. Easy up, and don’t expect results overnight.

3. Blueberries on the brain

Let’s say that you’re like me, over 40 and worried about your brain slowing down. You should be worried if you are living like the average citizen of the world. Why? Because your brain is slowing down and getting older, and cluttered.

The cells in the brain are called post-mitotic, which is a fancy way of saying that they don’t divide. (In reality, this may be a bit of a simplification, but it close enough for us.) Thus, you need to take care of all the cells you have. However, older brain cells have a tendency to get inflamed and not work all that well as we age. This is because of a little chemical chain reaction centered about NF-kappa B, which is a fancy name for a character that starts a little bit of irritation at the cell level. If this irritation builds up, the research clearly shows that has a heavy contributing factor in supporting Alzheimer’s disease.

Omega-3 seems to also help with quieting the irritation (remember I said they were like science fiction), but the real key is introducing some stuff into your system that helps these aging brain cells.

If you are poor, then you should go directly to Costco or Wal-Mart and start taking Vitamin C and E, along with your Omega-3 fish oil. Don’t take either separately, since it looks as if taken without each other could actually hurt you.

If you have a few extra bucks, I would also suggest the following.

*Drink Blueberry juice every day. Now, normally I hate rat studies, because what works on a rat doesn’t often work on a human. But, the research with rats seem so clear, I can help but believe that there is something for humans. Blueberry can protect the area of the brain that deals with motor skills. The studies are many.

*Take ALC (Acetyl-L-Carnitine) on an empty stomach before eating anything. The research is pretty clear. The only challenge with ALC is that the most compelling research is to combine it with R-ALA. But again, the research is on rats, and quite frankly R-ALA (A particular version of alpha lipoic acid) is very expensive, and still a bit hard to find. However, if you have google, it is well worth researching as it is very promising.

If you have a LOT of money, and you don't mind spending it, then you should look at the following. I personally like the following three items, but read my caveat below.

*You may want to take Phosphatidylserine (soy based is preferred, and widely available as PS). However, the research is all over the map. While PS can be derived from cows, this is very expensive and could transfer prions and make you sick. So soy based PS is very popular and much cheaper. The research is just not clear, and it is no wonder for instant memory cure. However, it does show promise for exercising, which we'll talk about in a minute.

*Ginko is so well known, I hardly feel that I need to spend time on it. The reserach, again, is pretty spotty with some studies showing no impact. I believe that aerobic exercise may have the same impact, so if you can be active, I would drop this.

*You may want to take Lethicin (Phosphatidylcholine), but the research is pretty spotty about how effective it is in the long run. Personally, I like it if has a nice slug of preservative in it to keep it from going rancid. It helps with memory. It may start the "brain boost" in around 60-90 minutes. It does NOT, however, seem to help with Alzheimer's, which is obvious if you are bought into the idea that Alzheimer's root is from irritation. Lethicin simply makes sure that their is enough key chemicals in your brain so that it works well.

Caveats to the expensive stuff: You don't get fat overnight, and you don't get skinny overnight. This is pretty obvious. The reality of life is accumilative damage (often this is described as chronic) as opposed as damage all at once (often this is called acute). If you look at the studies on Phosphatidylserine, Ginko, and Lethicin you will see 12 week studies, and statically questionably sample sizes. However, the damage often takes years to come about. It is currently my thoughts that only studies with large groups for 12 months will show impact. Science, in an attempt to avoid the placebo effect (which I'll get to later and is a massive sin) often refuses to do research that is conclusive.

4. Sweat to the brainpower

And finally, get your heart rate up. It makes you smarter.

"More recently, controlled examinations of the effects of physical fitness on cognitive performance have shown that improving cardiovascular fitness (CVF) can help to reduce the deleterious effects of age on cognition and brain structure. "

If the above doesn’t sound like oddness, I don’t know what does, but the evidence is clear. Aerobic activity is somehow linked to brain health. It could be many things, the brain consumes 22% of the blood from the heart, so maybe it helps with blood flow. Perhaps, activity helps with Heat Shock Protiens or Nerve Growth Factors (both of which help the brain develop). However, at the end, the evidence is clear. Getting your heart rate up, is going to help you preserve your mental powers.

However, some of us, as people of faith, shouldn’t be surprised, after all the Bible states, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” Sweating allows us to be productive to earn our wages. Sweating allows our brains to function.

No brain means no bread.

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