As they get older, one of the things that worries people most is how to sustain their synapses and keep their minds in good working order. We are often asked what people can do to improve the odds of staying sharp.
For the most part, drugs don’t work very well. Luckily, there are simple health remedies that do.
In the early 21st century, research on animals demonstrated that a diet rich in blueberries could prevent or reverse age-related memory loss.
Of course, rats and mice aren’t people, and we can’t assume that humans will benefit from the same diets. Luckily, however, there has been a small amount of research conducted on seniors with impaired memory (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Apr. 14, 2010).
Volunteers in their 70s were chosen because they were experiencing memory slips and other signs of cognitive deterioration.
They drank roughly 2.5 cups of blueberry juice daily for three months. A comparable group received a placebo drink.
The elderly subjects who drank blueberry juice performed better on memory tests, word associations, and list-learning than the people drinking the placebo.
We’d like to offer a tasty and easy way to get the benefits of blueberries every day.
Chocolate seems a very unlikely candidate for protecting brain power, but the flavanols in cocoa — which provide its distinctive flavor — actually have powerful effects on cognitive function.
In a study partially funded by the Mars candy company, 37 people between 50 and 69 were provided with diets that differed greatly in the amount of flavanols they consumed.
They were assigned to consume either 900 mg or just 10 mg of flavanols from cocoa daily.
After three months, brain scans and cognitive testing determined that people performed better at the high levels of flavanols (Nature Neuroscience, Dec. 2014).
Mars gave the scientists a special high-flavanol cocoa for their research.
You can’t buy it in the store, but it is possible to get another Mars product, CocoaVia. This powdered beverage mix contains 375 mg of cocoa flavanols per serving, without the sugar or fat found in chocolate candy.
Another simple approach to keeping the brain healthy is to eat foods that control blood pressure and improve blood flow. Beets have been shown to help get more blood to the front area of the brain (Nutrients, April 2015).
In one study, older people with Type 2 diabetes drank a cup of beet juice every day for two weeks. They showed a measurable improvement in reaction time.
To get benefits from beets, you may need to eat some every day, or drink juice made from beet roots.
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