Of the many concerns of aging, nothing is more important than enjoying a healthy mind to reflect on the blessings that life has offered. It’s also comforting to know that we have some level of personal control over our future brain function through a commitment to healthy habits. It is widely accepted that the best way to prevent many chronic diseases and ensure brain health later in life is by eating well, maintaining normal weight and controlling inflammation in the body throughout the lifespan. However, epidemiological studies have found reduced rates of Alzheimer’s, Dementia and mood disorders in places of the world like India suggesting that specific attributes in the traditional diets provide a rationale for this phenomenon. The idea that we can influence cognitive resilience and neuroplasticity, the creation of new and survivability of existing neuronal connections, by eating specific foods is intriguing.
The State of Brain Health Today
Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, terms often used interchangeably, currently affects 1 in 10 people in the Unites States incurring a financial toll of upwards of 259 billion dollars in caregiving and healthcare expenses. Dementia is an umbrella term describing symptoms of memory loss and impaired cognition stemming from a variety of illnesses that can sometimes be reversed depending on the cause. Alzheimer’s Disease is progressive and largely incurable, characterized by the development of amyloid plaques in specific areas of the cortex and hippocampus responsible for logical thought and memory. Further contributing to the current crisis in brain health are the vast numbers of people suffering with mood and depressive disorders. It is estimated that at least 21% of the population in the United States will experience a mood disorder at some point in their lifetime. We can learn from cultural and traditional dietary practices in places where brain disorders are less prevalent to help illuminate aspects of diet that promote brain health more effectively.
Healthy Life, Healthy Mind
Reduced rates of brain disorders in India may be the result of a variety of lifestyle characteristics including lower obesity rates, life in rural farming communities, eating a primarily vegetarian diet, and overall reduced stress. However, the spices in traditional curries have been studied for their health benefits spanning from promoting heart and bone health to anti-bacterial protection. Among other spices, turmeric is a common ingredient found in curries and plays a noteworthy role for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ayurvedic medicine has influenced health outcomes in these regions dating back hundreds of years and therefore it is useful to look to these ingredients for their disease fighting potential. Previous research on the benefit of curcumin supplementation, the active ingredient in turmeric, have been largely inconclusive until now. The reason for this may simply come down to quality and bioavailability of the curcumin, demonstrated through rapid absorption and peak blood concentration, found on the market today.
The First of Its Kind
A promising new study may be the first of its kind to demonstrate significant improvements in memory, reduced amyloid plaque growth, and improved mood by supplementing with 90mg of a quality curcumin supplement twice daily. The study included 40 people between the ages of 50-84 years old who were not yet diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Although the sample size was small, this well-designed, random controlled, double blind study produced a 28% average improvement in brain function by supplementing with a premium grade product over an 18-month period. Authors attribute curcumin’s anti-inflammatory, anti-amyloid, antioxidant and possible anti-tau properties the reason for the positive changes in memory and mood in this cohort. As previously mentioned, the most important aspect of the study may be the quality of curcumin being consumed. Further research will be needed with larger sample sizes to generalize these results to a broader population.
Navitas Organics sources the highest quality ingredients available including a turmeric powder that boasts 4% of curcumin, 40% higher than organic competitors confirmed through third-party analysis. As with all Navitas Organics products, this turmeric is 100% organic and consciously sourced. Compared to extracts, turmeric root powder is non-processed and when foods are consumed as close to the way they exist in nature, it is thought to improve nutrient bioavailability to produce the maximum results. Navitas Organics Turmeric Powder is the perfect complement to this study suggesting that the quality of curcumin being consumed may be the biggest indicator of its neuroprotective capabilities as we age.
Signs to Watch For
Early detection of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Dementia is paramount to controlling progression of the disease. The following early signs indicate the need for further evaluation by a medical professional.
• Subtle memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood or personality
• Challenges with problem solving
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or work
• Confusion with time or place
• Misplacing items and not being able to re-trace steps
• Inability to follow directions
Although many chronic conditions, cancers and brain disorders have a genetic component, there is still plenty we can do to control progression and improve quality of life. Simple nutritional adjustments, management of stress and exercise can be the anchor we need to live a long life enjoying the memories we have created with friends and family. Don’t wait to start making simple changes today that will pay off in dividends tomorrow because as we know, the preservation of health is far easier than the cure of disease.
Author Bio: As an RN, MPH and successful healthy lifestyle business owner, Meg Adelman focuses her efforts on improving generations of population health by relentlessly promoting the lifestyle-health connection and pushing for policy and legislative change to support people in making healthy choices.