Fill Up on Antioxidants
Even resting, your brain is using up about 20 percent of your body's total supply of oxygen. Processing all that oxygen comes with a high price tag: One of its by-products are the free radicals that can damage and prematurely age delicate cells, including your neurons, the specialized cells that carry messages to and from the brain.
"Oxidative stress is worse in an older brain, so you need fruits and vegetables of intense color (blue/purple, red, green, and so on)--and lots of them," says Joseph. "They may even affect the way your neurons talk to each other." In his own studies, Joseph found that feeding high-antioxidant blueberry concentrate to elderly rats helped reverse their memory loss. And another study that he did in collaboration with David Morgan, PhD, of the University of South Florida in Tampa, looks promising for improving memory in rats with Alzheimer's. Other antioxidant powerhouse foods are strawberries and cooked spinach.
Although the research on diet and your brain is very new in 2004, vitamin E is emerging as a hot prospect. "Vitamin E is one of the most potent antioxidants in animal and lab studies," says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, an epidemiologist at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. In her 3-year study of more than 3,000 people over 65, those who had the highest vitamin E intake from diet and supplements showed 37 percent less decline on tests of memory, attention, and abstract thinking. "The study is promising...vitamin E may protect against dementia," says Morris, who's working on extending the study.
Prevention recommends a daily vitamin E supplement of 100 to 400 IU and a daily vitamin C supplement of 100 to 500 mg.
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