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Brain food: Dietary principals to help prevent

dementia and Alzheimer’s disease Controlling hormones can improve brain function, and help you lose weight, too.

Part one of a two part feature

ormones are chemicals produced by our endo- crine glands to control and regulate behavioural and physiological activities. Insu- lin, leptin and ghrelin are hormones that play an important role in brain function and appetite control. By understanding how to control these hormones through diet, we can help to naturally improve cog- nitive function, with the added benefit of weight loss.


The strongest link between diet and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, relates to high blood sugar levels. Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance, where there is a di- minished ability for our muscles and brain to respond to the action of insulin. When we consume sugar, or foods that convert to sugar, digestive enzymes convert the sugar into glucose and fructose. Glucose is our body’s primary energy source. When glucose levels rise in the blood, insulin is produced to transport glucose from the bloodstream into our muscle cells and other tis- sues. The glucose that isn’t used for energy is converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.

I believe it is important to avoid added sugar in all

its forms, including honey, maple syrup, fructose – any sweetener that has a high glycemic load that produces an insulin response in the body. Strive for no more than six teaspoons of sugar (24 grams) per day. The Ameri- can Journal of Clinical Nutrition found the majority of people are consuming three times the amount of sugar

recommended by the American Heart Association. Some researchers are now referring to Alzheimer’s

disease as “Type 3 diabetes,” based on strong research showing that the brain, similar to our muscles, becomes resistant to insulin. In other words, Type 2 diabetes progresses to the point where it starts to alter and even destroy brain func- tion.

The most important dietary change we

Nathan Zassman Natural Health

can make to improve brain function and reduce the risk of dementia is to choose foods that are low in sugar and high in fibre. Avoid high carbohydrate refined grains like white flour, white rice or refined foods which convert quickly to glucose in the body. The high fibre levels in whole foods and grains results in a more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. Sugar is often hiding in places where you least expect it, sometimes in foods consid- ered healthful. Read labels carefully and strive for zero added sugar and low carbo- hydrate levels in your food choices. Avoid sweetened yo- gurts, ketchup, and nearly anything where the label has ingredients that end in “ose.” One of the worst is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), used to sweeten just about all processed foods and soft drinks. HFCS is linked to a host of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and more. Even more disturbing is a recent discovery that HFCS is high in mercury.

According to Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., Professor, De- partment of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, HFCS is absorbed more quickly than other

sugars, without stimulating the production of insulin or leptin. Dr. Popkin says “the increase in consumption of HFCS has a temporal relation to the epidemic of obe- sity, and the overconsumption of HFCS in calorically sweetened beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” Many gluten free ingredients, including rice flour, corn

flour, tapioca flour and potato flour are high glycemic, and can cause an insulin reaction equal to refined white wheat flour, so going gluten free is not the answer to controlling blood sugar. Whole grains usually provide a 10:1 ratio of carbohydrates to fibre, so when you read nutrition facts labels, if there are 20 grams of carbohy- drates, strive for 2 or more grams of fibre. The Leptin / Ghrelin Connection

Ghrelin is the appetite stimulating hormone. Leptin is

the hormone that signals the brain that we are full. Low leptin levels can make you keep eating, even when you’re full, because you don’t reach satiety when leptin levels are low.

Increasing levels of good bacteria with probiotic sup- plements and fermented foods can help balance leptin and ghrelin levels. Additional fibre in the diet can lower ghrelin levels, while eating more protein and important omega-3 essential fatty acids can help raise leptin levels. Foods high in omega-3 include chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, anchovies, and trout. By lowering ghrelin and increasing leptin, insulin lev- els will naturally drop, which is critical for preventing dementia, with the added benefit of helping with weight control. Next month find out which foods can potentially improve cognition and memory, and may help to reduce the risk of dementia.

underway. Influenza is caused by viruses that in- fect your nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms usually appear suddenly and can include a cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, joint pain and exhaustion. Contracting influenza can lead to potentially danger- ous complications – par- ticularly for older adults. The best way to pro-

It’s time for your annual influenza shot W

inter has arrived in Manito- ba and that means influenza season is well

tect yourself from influ- enza, and avoid spreading it to others, is to get an influenza vaccine. The in- fluenza virus changes from year to year and so does the vaccine. This is why it’s so important to get the influenza vaccine annually. In Manitoba, the vaccine is of- fered free of charge to all Manitobans six months of age and older; healthy children between two and 17 years of age have the option of receiving a needle-free vaccine called FluMist© Quadrivalent. I understand how important it is that all Manitobans are vaccinated, so I make sure I get my influenza vaccine every fall. I also encourage family, friends, colleagues and readers of this newspaper, to get the vac- cine. Though influenza season lasts into

Hon. Deanne Crothers Minister’s Message

the spring, the earlier you are vaccinated, the better. Even if you are not showing symptoms, you could still be carrying the virus and passing it onto others who could be more vulnerable to complications. Being older than 65 puts you at higher risk It’s a fact that as we age, our immune system weakens. This makes older adults more susceptible to get- ting influenza, and the consequences can be seri- ous, even deadly. The virus is especially dangerous for those with chronic condi- tions like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.

Millions of Canadians get their influ- enza vaccine every year and serious side effects are very rare. While the vaccine may cause minor side effects, these are usually mild (such as a sore arm or leg, a headache or feeling tired) and last only a few days. The risks of serious complica- tions from influenza are far greater than the possible side effects from the vaccine. Don’t spread the disease around. In-

fluenza can spread easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing or sharing food and drinks. You can also get it by touching your mouth, eyes or nose after contact with the virus.

If you are experiencing influenza symptoms: • Stay at home and limit contact with

others. • Cough or sneeze into your elbow/ sleeve, or use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth. Place the tissue in the gar- bage immediately after using it. • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If your symptoms get worse, visit a doctor. If you are having trouble breath- ing, call 911.

Pneumococcal shots for seniors Due to the higher risks faced by seniors over 65 years of age, Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors recommends this group receive a pneumococcal vac- cine to help protect against pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis. If you are over 65 and have never been vacci- nated for pneumococcal disease, the vac- cine is free of charge, and you can receive it when you come for your annual influ- enza vaccine. Unlike the influenza vac- cine, most adults only require one pneu- mococcal vaccine in their lifetime. For more information

For more information on influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, talk to your doc- tor, pharmacist or public health nurse, or call Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788- 8200 (in Winnipeg) or toll free 1-888-

315-9257 elsewhere in Manitoba. You’ll also find a wide variety of resources to help you better understand influenza on Manitoba’s seasonal influenza website at As always, we welcome your com-

ments and questions. Please contact the seniors information line at 204-945- 6565 in Winnipeg; toll free 1-800-665- 6565. Hon. Deanne Crothers is Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors.

November 2015 15

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