The brain has evolved to be a masterpiece of continuing neuroplasticity to perform at the highest levels based on many dependent factors. With the continuing advancement of molecular biology and technology, it is not a secret anymore how the meals we decide to eat impact the signals that are released and directly affect metabolism and synaptic activity.
Most likely the 3 meals a day has not become a standard overnight but an evolved set plan that was based on the performance that was gained physically and mentally. If you look at evolution and the brain in regards to food and data from the Paleontological period. It suggests that rapid brain evolution occurred with the appearance of Homo erectus some 1.8 million years ago which did not happen because of doing brain exercises. But suggests it was secondary to developments in diet, physical size, and adaptation of different ways of finding foods.
Feeding the Hippocampus
No, we are not talking about feeding a rare hippo in a remote part of Africa. The Hippocampus is a unique part of the brain that is located in the medial area of the temporal lobe which is in the same lobe as the receptive area of language.
Diet has shown to impact adult hippocampal neurogenesis in 4 separate areas such as calorie intake, meal frequency, meal texture and meal content. This theory has been proven to increase cognition and mood not only in rodents but in human studies as well.
With studies being done on the positive effects of calorie restriction, extended length of time between meals, and also chewing your meals vs a soft diet; the content of the meal has presented the most diverse results. Foods such as blueberries and cocoa have shown to boost hippocampal neurogenesis in stressed rats and symptoms of depression as well as spatial working memory in aging rats.
Curcumin, which is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric, which is found in yellow curry has been found to increase adult hippocampal neurogenesis and studies in the aging populations have found increased cognitive performance from eating curry.
It is interesting to note that, beyond what you need to eat, it is important to understand what not to eat. A high-fat diet in rats has shown to be very harmful and impairs hippocampal neurogenesis.
How to Make Bad Decisions
There just might be something physically going on in that noggin of yours if your decision making is off and impulse has taken off with no inhibition. The Frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for executive functions such as planning, decision making, motivation, behavior, and speech.
Frontal lobe syndrome or a traumatic brain injury with specific injuries to this area can significantly change someone’s personality to involve social and even sexual behaviors. A lesion to this area can present with emotional lability, apathy, disinhibition and can even lead to violence or criminal actions.
What we put in our bodies can have a direct impact to the frontal lobe area. Caffeine is known to block the adenosine receptors and increase acetylcholine in the frontal lobe and has secondary effects in judgment. Improving your balance of acetylcholine is going to help in your behavior.
Refined sugar causes fluctuations in glucose levels and lack of nutrients which then creates an imbalance in the brain. Sugar is very important in brain function and the brain uses up to half of the sugar in the body for thinking, learning, and memory. Different meats contain arachidonic acid which interferes with the storage of acetylcholine which along with adenosine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain.
Cheese, most importantly aged cheese contains tyramine which has been proven to be hypertensive in some people. It releases the stress hormone norephedrine which can restrict blood flow to the brain and impair thinking skills.
With other bad habits such as drinking alcohol, depressant drugs, smoking, and medications the inhibition of the frontal lobe diminishes. As the frontal lobe dissipates, the autonomic functions such as thirst, hunger, sleep, mood, and sex-drive start to influence and take more responsibility for decision making.
Fighting the Blues with Polyphenols
Psychiatric problems are increasing at an exponential rate around the world with pharmacological companies scrambling to make money off our problems. The alarming situation is that these so called happy meds are far from proven and 30% of patients do not respond to these medications and 70% do not gain remission.
With these numbers and devastating side effects such as insomnia, weight gain, dry mouth, sexual problems, and even suicide; people are finally deciding to look for safer approaches to conquer problems with mood and secondary behaviors such as concentration and memory.
Foods high in polyphenols such as colored fruits, vegetables, spices, teas, and wines are gaining traction because of their anti inflammatory and antioxidant implications on the brain.
Polyphenols also aid in increased expression of BDNF, which aids in degeneration and reversal of brain cells and behavior problems.
BDNF ( Brain-derived neurotrophic factor ) is a protein that is an affiliate of the neurotrophin clan of growth factors. It acts and aids on certain neurons in the central, somatic, and autonomic nervous systems to protect and support the longevity of the neurons already present while aiding in increased production of newer neurons.
In a study in Japan on green tea consumption, which contains polyphenol compounds, it was shown that in one month’s time with 1000 candidates participating using self-noted descriptions of depression. The evidence suggested that increased consumption of green tea was closely connected to a lower association with manifestations of depression.