SIMPLE TIPS TO SHARPEN WITS
The health charity, The Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation, suggests 10 Clever Reasons to Go Veggie. VVF’s contact details are elsewhere on our website if you would like see the full version with research references. Here are the highlights:
1. Folic acid boosts brain power
Research suggests that folic acid can help boost brain power in the over-50s. Good sources include broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, chick peas, reduced-salt yeast extract and brown rice. Vegetarians generally have higher folic acid intakes and vegans even higher.
2. Links between intelligence and vegetarianism
Links between intelligence and the vegetarian diet were demonstrated when a team of vegetarians won the BBC’s Test the Nation IQ battle and recent research suggests that intelligent children are more likely to become vegetarians later in life.
3. Bolster your mood
Shorter days and low light levels can trigger winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sufferers over-eat because they crave sweet or starchy foods, which are natural short-term mood improvers and cause the brain to produce serotonin – the chemical which is elevated by antidepressants. But, wholegrain bread, brown rice or rice cakes, pasta and fruit provide healthful carbohydrate, which increases natural serotonin production, with very little fat. Winter depression responds well to daylight, especially a generous amount of it early in the day e.g. a 20-minute walk in the first morning light.
4. Cut dementia risk
Research suggests that being obese can increase your risk of developing dementia. Vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of being overweight or obese and replacing meat with a plant-based alternative may help with weight control.
5. Get smart – lose the flab
Weight loss might not only help cut dementia risk but also boost brain power. A recent study suggested this may be due to factors including the thickening and hardening of cerebral vessels because of obesity, or possibly the development of insulin resistance.
6. Juice may cut Alzheimer’s risk
Research suggests that drinking fruit and vegetable juices frequently may cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. One study showed the risk for Alzheimer’s was 76 per cent lower among those who drank juice more than three times a week, compared with those who drank it less than once weekly.
7. Alzheimer’s disease… good fat
A research study showed that people who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s but eat omega-3 fatty acids may have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Good vegetarian sources include flaxseeds (linseeds), walnuts and their oils.
8. Alzheimer’s disease… bad fat
Another study showed that people with high cholesterol levels in mid-life are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s later in life than those with low cholesterol –and vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol levels.
9. Calcium in dairy linked to dementia
Scientists found that excess calcium in the diet can narrow the blood vessels in the brain, leading to tissue damage that may cause cognitive impairment, dementia, depression and strokes. The research suggests that calcium in dairy foods may be responsible.
10. Alzheimer’s and the link with meat
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are very similar to the brain-destroying Creutzfeltd Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease. A recent Canadian book claims that Alzheimer’s may be caused by a rogue protein called a prion, in much the same way as vCJD, and that the source of vCJD and Alzheimer’s is identical – meat! These conclusions are not universally accepted, but vegetarians will appreciate being on the right side of the risk profile.
The Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (Optima) has brought together available advice into a recommended diet to avoid Alzheimer’s. It is entirely vegan and contains no animal products at all.