Good Nutritional Choices Make for Better Brain Health

Author : Dr. Ravi Kumar C P 

Consultant - Paediatric Neurology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore 

We all need some “food for thought” at times, and we wholeheartedly appreciate it. Ever thought how it could be literally? Does nutrition impact brain health, and if we improve our diet can we combat neurological disorders better? It is a fact that neurological disorders are a cause for increased disability and mortality worldwide. More than 1 billion people worldwide are affected by some kind of neurological disorder, and 7 million deaths every year are attributed to neurological disorders.

There are both internal and external factors that affect the health of the central nervous system. The nerve tissue's survival, growth and operation is controlled by internal factors called neurotrophic elements. These neurotrophic elements are active proteins. There are external factors also that influence brain health. Some of these are stress, an unhealthy lifestyle and work-life balance, any kind of injury to the brain or spinal cord, and environmental pollution.

At the cellular level, a key factor that leads to neurological disorders is oxidative stress. An increase in free radicals in the body can lead to chronic inflammation, which in turn leads to oxidative stress, which then can alter the cell membrane and the structure of lipids, lipoproteins, and other proteins, including the neurotrophic elements.

Through a good and responsible diet, inflammation, a key element in the pathophysiological pathway of neurological disorders, can be controlled. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, and herbs are rich in anti-inflammatory components such as omega 3 fatty acids, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Such foods are known to regulate brain health by controlling inflammation and restoring gut health.

On the other hand, a diet rich in processed and high-fat foods, refined carbohydrates and red meat has been linked to increased inflammation and higher risk of chronic neurological disorders. The preservatives, emulsifiers, and bulking agents present in modern snacks all contribute to increased inflammation and may put you at the risk of neurological disorders. Try not to consume these foods frequently. It has also been proven scientifically that adults who consumed a diet low in fat but high in omega 3 fatty acids were protected from cognitive deterioration.

Here are some of the nutritional interventions you could take to ensure that your brain remains in good health:

Take five portions of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, as studies show that this is associated with negative inflammatory markers and reduced oxidative stress.

Fast, but with a doctor’s consent. Fasting, where the participants take only 30-50% of normal calorie intake is shown to reduce age-related neurological decline.

Add herbs and spices to your diet. They are rich in flavonoids, terpenes, and phenolic acids and help disrupt inflammatory pathways. Turmeric and ginger are proven to be the most effective among such herbs and spices.

Add oily marine fish to your diet. They have been shown to increase ant-arrhythmic and anti-hypertensive markers in addition to anti-inflammatory ones.

When you make all these changes, also kick the habit of smoking, go for a walk in the park to get a breath of fresh air and manage stress better both at work and home. Consult with a doctor or dietitian before you make any changes to your dietary regime. Let’s build a happy, healthy brain together. (The author has his own study and views)