Eating to preserve brain health

Monday June 3 2019

The long-term effects of alcohol can co

The long-term effects of alcohol can completely rewire your brain, increasing the risk of depression and other conditions. NET PHOTO 

By BEATRICE NAKIBUUKA

The brain keeps all the systems in your body functioning. “It is, therefore, essential to keep your brain healthy with a healthy diet since some foods negatively impact your memory and mood,” says Dr Paul Kasenene, a nutritionist at Wellcare Centre.

Sugary drinks
A high intake of sugary drinks such as soda not only increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but has a negative effect on your brain.
“This is because a number of sugary drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup. A high intake of fructose can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood fats, diabetes and arterial dysfunction,” Dr Kasenene says.
These aspects of metabolic syndrome may lead to brain inflammation, impairing memory and learning, and an increase in the long-term risk of developing dementia. You can replace sweetened drinks with water, unsweetened iced tea, vegetable juice and unsweetened dairy products.

Refined carbohydrates
Dr Denis Katanku Musoga, a nutritionist at the Uganda Heart Institute, says refined carbohydrates generally have a high glycemic index so the body digests them quickly, causing a spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. These include sugars and highly processed grains, such as white flour.

“High glycemic index foods impair brain function in both children and adults. Also, a high intake of fat and refined foods causes poor memory because such foods cause inflammation to the part of the brain that is responsible for memory,” he says, adding that healthy, lower-GI carbs include foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains.

Foods high in trans fats
Dr Kasenene says artificial trans fats can be found in margarine, frosting, snacks, ready-made cakes and prepackaged cookies. A higher intake of trans fats increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, poorer memory, lower brain volume and cognitive decline

Alcohol
Dr Katanku says chronic alcohol use results in a reduction of brain volume, metabolic changes and disruption of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals the brain uses to communicate to the entire body.
People with alcoholism often have a deficiency in vitamin B1 which in the long run leads to severe brain damage, including memory loss, disturbances in eyesight and confusion.

Aspartame
According to wedmd, an online portal, sugar-free products usually contain this artificial sweetener.

People often choose to take sugar-free products as a healthier option or in a bid to lose weight or avoid sugar when they have diabetes.

This widely used sweetener, however, has been linked to behavioural and cognitive problems and might disrupt the production of neurotransmitters.

Some scientists have suggested these factors may cause negative effects on learning and emotions, which have been observed when aspartame is consumed in excess. If you prefer to avoid it, you could simply cut artificial sweeteners and excess sugar from your diet altogether.

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