Brain Health and Aging

In diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, other  Cognitiva Review damaging factors are at work. In Alzheimer’s disease, a toxic protein called beta-amyloid, forms in your brain tissue. This protein acts as an irritant and causes inflammation in your brain. This inflammation then causes the production of free radicals that can destroy any membranes and cells in their path.

Parkinson’s disease results from unregulated production of the brain chemical dopamine which, with the help of free radicals, becomes toxic to the brain cells that control your motor functions. Even in a healthy brain, oxygen radicals are produced every moment during normal high-oxygen demand of neuronal activity. In a healthy brain, enzymes and nutritional antioxidants neutralize these radicals.

What safeguards can healthy people take to reduce risk of diseases and especially to protect their brains from oxidative stress over a lifetime? The simplest answer is to follow a diet that includes abundant sources of antioxidant chemicals derived from plant foods. Evidence for the benefits of such a dietary regimen has only been demonstrated in experiments with animals up until now, but the results are convincing. Over the past eight years, the research activities of Dr. Jim Joseph of the US Department of Agriculture, Boston, have focused on how to protect the brain from oxidative stress with dietary use of antioxidant-rich plants such as strawberries, cranberries, elderberries, blueberries and spinach.

Dr. Joseph’s research findings–a message closely pertinent to this essay–can best be represented by a quote from one of his research reports in 1998: “increased antioxidant protection through diets comprised of fruits and vegetables identified as being high in total antioxidant activity might prevent or reverse the deleterious effects of oxidative stress on neurons.”

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