Maximizing Our Memory: Part 2 – Nutrition

For some reason, the vast majority of people find that their memory ability could and should be better.  And, this concern only becomes more common with age.  Enhancing and protecting our memory ideally begins in our youth.  We naturally achieve a peak ability to remember in early adulthood and then find that the inborn memory ability declines over time.  Adults learn tricks to compensate for this decline in memory.  This works well until people get into their 70’s or 80’s at which time memory loss becomes a disabling problem.

Research on memory has advanced greatly in recent years.  We now understand more about brain function and how to enhance, protect, and preserve what is known as “cognitive function” or the ability to remember facts, process information, and solve problems.

More Americans are malnourished and deficient on important brain nutrients than ever in recent history.  Food quality has deteriorated, with fewer people eating fruits and vegetables and other health promoting foods.  This impacts brain health in multiple ways, but memory impairment is a known consequence.

Memory and Brain Health Key #2:  Maintain proper nutrition

1.  Limit sugar, especially sugar containing sodas.  An animal study published in May in the Journal of Physiology showed that sugar consumption, especially high fructose corn syrup from sodas, impairs the memory.  In fact, the high fructose diet impaired the brain’s ability to learn and remember information.  The primary source of this sugar in the U.S. is regular soda.  I recommend limiting any soda to diet and then not over 2 servings per week.  Stick with tea and coffee and water.

2.  Don’t overeat on calories.  The Mayo Clinic looked at memory impairment in older individuals and found that those overeating the most had the greatest chance of memory loss.  Those eating between 2143 and 6,000 calories per day had twice the risk of mental impairment, including memory loss.

3.  Drink green tea. Green tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of memory impairment and overall cognitive decline as we age.  It’s a far better choice than soda.  Choose a non-sweetened variety and add a non-sugar sweetener, such as stevia or sucralose, if needed.

4.  Get your vitamins!  Vitamin D deficiency, as one example, has multiple ramifications, including a greater risk of viral infections, depression (especially the “winter blues”), weight gain, and decreased mental function.  Getting adequate sunshine or taking at least 2,000 IU per day is highly recommended for optimal brain function and memory.  B-vitamins (meat, fish, and a variety of vegetables) are also crucial for normal memory and brain health.

5.  Get your magnesium.  Magnesium is deficient in the diets of approximately 70% of Americans.  Yet magnesium is necessary for 300 biochemical reactions in the body.  One of these important functions is for memory and decision-making.  Nuts and seeds are an easy to eat snack that contain magnesium.

6.  Get your Zinc.  Zinc is another important mineral for memory.  In fact, zinc is crucial for growing new brain cells.  Since zinc deficiency is common, I recommend supplementing with zinc daily.  Zinc is also important for the immune system.

7.  Omega 3 Oils.  Omega 3 oils, in the form of pure fish oils, are very important for brain health and function.  These oils help form the cell membranes of brain cells, allowing them to perform their dynamic tasks of relaying information and processing information, including memory recall.  Wild caught salmon, sardines and tuna are great sources.

In Part 3 (next week), we will look at aging as it relates to memory and what we know now with current “best recommendations”.

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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