Average Reading Time: 2 minutes and 13 seconds
There are a handful of factors that have been shown to actually decrease the size of your brain. Perhaps most noteworthy is the research on vitamin B12 deficiencies, which are linked to poor digestion, low stomach acid, cognition and memory concerns, and a shrinking brain size.
We RecommendIs Your Brain Shrinking?
New research has now linked a western diet full of junk foods like soda, chips, sugary snacks, processed meats and most comfort foods found in the western diet to a shrinking part of the brain called the hippocampus. (1)
The hippocampus is involved in memory, learning, emotions, facial recognition, spatial processing and navigation. It houses the very famous limbic system that controls emotions and the memories related to emotions. (2) When parts of the brain start to shrink, it is due to the dying off of brain cells without rebuilding them.
The study used MRIs to measure the size of the hippocampus in adults ranging from ages 60-64. After adjusting for diet, smoking, exercise, education and depression, they found that the group that ate the most junk food had a smaller hippocampus. The group that ate a healthier plant-based, whole foods diet had a significantly larger hippocampus.
We all know that diet is important, and this science should not really surprise you. Nutrient-scarce junk food – those with less B vitamins (like B12), less omega-3 fatty acids and less minerals – are linked to the compromised health of the body and the brain. In addition, there are studies that link a whole foods diet to a healthier microbiome, which is directly linked to healthier brain function. (3)
Sugary foods cause higher blood sugar levels, which are linked to cognitive difficulties. (4) For example, there is an enzyme, called the insulin-degrading enzyme, which takes excess sugar away from the brain. It is also one of several enzymes that remove unwanted plaque from the brain. If blood sugar levels are a bit high, but still in the “normal” range, the plague can remain in the brain. The theory is that when the insulin-degrading enzyme is too busy shoveling excess sugar out of the brain, it is forced to leave the plaque removal for another day. The longer we stay on a sugary diet, the less efficient we are at moving dangerous plaque out of the brain. The result is brain-related cognitive concerns that start years before we notice any behavioral changes. (6)
Processed fats are also linked to cognitive difficulties. Remember, the brain is about 60 percent fat and, if the body is being fueled by toxic processed fats, the brain will not function optimally and lead to psychological concerns. (5)
When parts of the brain start to shrink, it is due to the dying off and not rebuilding of brain cells. In addition to eating a healthier whole foods diet and getting rid of the junk foods, there are 4 natural brain cell-builders that have been discovered by nature. They belong to a class of supplements called nootropics, and they have been shown to boost the natural production of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factors (BDNF), which literally grow new brain cells – something that for many years was thought to be impossible. They are: