Eat Less, Remember More... And Other Memory-Boosting Tricks
According to an Italian study, skipping dessert or having a light lunch could benefit more than just your waistline. Eating less could help you remember more and boost your brain power, too.
Scientists from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome investigated 'calorific restriction', a theory that near-starvation rations help boost health and memory.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tested the theory on lab rats and found that cutting back the calories by 25 - 30% (around 600 calories a day) helped boost the production of the memory and learning protein, CREB1.
"It is just 25 to 30 per cent fewer calories. It is like not eating a cake at the end of the meal. This gives us a tool to better investigate this brain circuitry and try to figure out more drugs that do the same," says lead researcher Dr. Giovambattista Pani, from the study.
"We are trying a couple of compounds right now on animals but it is at a very preliminary stage. Our findings identify for the first time an important mediator of the effects of diet on the brain. This discovery has important implications to develop future therapies to keep our brain young and prevent brain degeneration and the ageing process.
"Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1, for example through new drugs, so to keep the brain young without the need of a strict diet," Dr. Pani added.
While eating less helps increase brainpower, drinking more also has its benefits. Well, more coffee that is, as this helps up the CREB1 levels.
But it’s not all about what you eat (or rather, what you don’t eat…) as another study suggests that the key to a good memory could soon lie in a 'memory-boosting pill'.
Neuroscientists from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found a way of suppressing a key PKR immune molecule in the brain that boosts communication between the neurons that help improve memory and brain function. Researchers came to this conclusion after injecting an inhibitor into lab rats to suppress the molecule and then put them through a series of memory-related tests.
"For instance, when the authors assessed spatial memory through a test in which mice use visual cues for finding a hidden platform in a circular pool, they found that normal mice had to repeat the task multiple times over many days in order to remember the platform's location," lead researcher Dr Costa-Mattioli told ScienceDaily.
"By contrast, mice lacking PKR learned the task after only one training session."
Researchers added that they are hoping to mimick this reaction with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers, as well as those suffering from injury-related memory-loss.
"Let's say we'd compare with Viagra. People use Viagra at whatever age, let's say 60, 65," he explained. "But someone (who) is 40 goes to buy it, they can get it. But this is not our goal. Our goal would be to treat people who have a memory problem", Dr. Mattioli told The Sun.
For those of you who could do with a memory boost, take a look out our round-up of the best memory-boosting foods.
Avocados are a great source of 'healthy fats' as well as a good blood circulation booster. This is important when it comes to brain power, as it enhances the blood flow to the brain, maintaining healthy brain function.
The essential omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like sardines, herring, trout and mackerel, as well as walnut oil and flaxseeds (linseeds) - are high in Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid crucial to maintaining a healthy nervous system. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. Fish also contains iodine, which is known to improve mental clarity. For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.
Whole grains improve circulation and help regulate glucose levels in the blood as the steadier the glucose levels, the easier it is to concentrate. This is why it's important to eat breakfast in the morning, as it not only revs up the metabolism, but keeps your sugar levels balanced as well as protecting against diabetes and heart disease.
Sugar is the brain's preferred fuel source, however before you reach for the table sugar, it's glucose that your body needs. The body metabolises glucose from the sugars and carbohydrates in food. That's why a glass of something sweet offers a short-term boost to memory, thinking processes, and mental ability. Too much sugar on the other hand, can result in impaired memory, so go easy on the sweet stuff and consume enough to boost your brain power.
Like sugar, caffeine perks up the brain but if you have too much, it can have negative effect on your mental state. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up feeling. But beware, the effects are short-term and if you overdo it, the brain can go into overdrive and make you more jittery than sharp thinking.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great sources of antioxidant vitamin E, which is associated with less cognitive decline as you age. A good intake of vitamin E is linked to preventing poor memory. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, seeds, eggs, brown rice and whole grains. Pumpkin seeds are especially good for boosting brain power, as a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidants, which are thought to protect brain neurons from damage, build communication receptors between each brain cell, and flush out waste. They also help protect against age-related diseases like Alzheimer's. Blackberries are also a great brain booster, as it contains Vitamin C which has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility.
An unlikely contender, the humble sage has long had a reputation for improving memory. Although its recommended to try sage oils, try and sprinkle some sage into your diet.
Folic acid and vitamin B12 help prevent homocysteine from building up in the body, which is higher in those with Alzheimer's. Vitamin B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium are also good vitamins to stock up on when looking to boost brain power.
Tomato's contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.
A great source of vitamin K, broccoli which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.