Are there secrets to life-long brain power?
Also in this week's column:
- Do we really need a daily shower or bath to stay healthy?
- How old is my body if the cells keep renewing themselves?
- Does the size of an animal determine the size of its sperm?
Are there secrets to life-long brain power?
Research shows that there are. According to Dr Dharma Singh Khalsa, president and medical director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation International in Tucson, Arizona and author of Brain Longevity (1997), Meditation as Medicine (2002), and Food as Medicine (2004), "your brain needs three different kinds of exercise to thrive best". These are mental exercise, aerobic physical exercise, and mind/body exercises.
Mental effort, the so-called "hard thinking" actually stimulates brain cells to send out microscopic filaments called dendrites to establish new connections with one another. "Hard thinking" also promotes the growth of glial cells (the brain's little housekeepers) that support the metabolism of the cells that do the thinking and keep brain nerve pathways clean. Types of this form of exercise include learning to play the piano, doing cross-word puzzles, taking up a new hobby where new skills must be learned.
Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates the release of nerve growth factor. This is a vital hormone that restores damaged neurons and boosts the levels of the brain's neurotransmitters (messenger chemicals) that the brain needs for thinking and memory. Types of this form of exercise include walking, swimming, and bike-riding.
Dr Khalsa claims that mind/body exercises are derived from ancient Eastern religious practices. "They regenerate the brain by increasing energy levels and boosting the ability to concentrate by 20 per cent or more." Types of this form of exercise include meditation, deep-breathing, and listening to meditative music.
Dr. Khalsa also suggests that the brain thrives best, if you eliminate stress. He adds: "When you're pushed - or you push yourself too hard - your brain goes into destructive overdrive. The damage that stress causes is slow and subtle, and it builds up over a lifetime. So it is essential to take steps to reduce your stress level every day."
Dr Khalsa contends that "the well-nourished brain" is a well-thriving brain too. Fat promotes brain deterioration, much as it wreaks havoc with the heart and arteries. It clogs the vessels that carry oxygen and glucose - the brain's energy fuel - to millions of neurons and produces free radicals - the highly reactive and destructive chemicals that scar and kill brain cells.
He suggests: "Keep your fat intake below 20 per cent of total calories." He further suggests the taking of vitamin E (the antioxidant), vitamin B (the energy booster), coenzyme-Q-10 (the brain cell-refueling substance), and ginko biloba (the brain blood circulation enhancing substance).
Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Healthy body = healthy mind.
Makes sense, not overly surprising I must say, basically what all these reports say: Eat less junk, exercise more.
Its pretty easy to check someone's publication record, simply look them up on Pubmed which is the publicly available database of all published academic journals in the bio-medical sciences. It doesn't have every single journal but those that are not available via Pubmed are known as "unlisted" and not usually given the same authority as a listed journal.
A quick search, and I mean this took about 3 minutes, search turns up 2 publications by a DS Khalsa, one that mentions Alzheimers and the Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation, and one that does not. Here's the url for the search on the term "Khalsa D S" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=search&DB=pubmed. (If that doesn't work, the search engine is at www.pubmed.com and I used two search terms "Khalsa D S" and "Khalsa alzheimer's"). Neither appear to be clinical trials or original research but I have not read the papers in full and therefore cannot tell for certain. The first, published in 1985, appears to be a summary of evidence, a review in other words and the second one published in 1998 is classified by Pubmed as a review.
So, the author cited here has a publication record but on an initial search it appears to be short one. The results of that search suggest that he has not published original research in the field in a Pubmed listed journal. To be sure of that one would either have to spend much longer conducting far more extensive literature searches or simply contact him and ask.