A handful of factors have been shown to decrease your brain size.
Perhaps most noteworthy is the research on vitamin B12 deficiencies, which are linked to poor digestion, low stomach acid, cognitive function, memory concerns, accelerated death of brain cells, and loss of brain volume, aka a shrinking brain.
New research links a Western diet, full of junk foods like soda, chips, sugary snacks, processed meats, and most comfort foods 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 famous limbic system, which controls emotions and memories related to emotions.2
Diet + Brain Size
The study mentioned above used MRIs to measure hippocampus size in adults ages 60-64. After adjusting for diet, smoking, exercise, education, and depression, it was found that the group who ate the most junk food had smaller hippocampi. The group who ate a healthier plant-based, whole foods diet had significantly larger hippocampi.
We all know diet is important, so this science should not really surprise you. Nutrient-scarce junk foods—those with less B vitamins (like B12), omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals—are linked to compromised health of body and brain.
In addition, studies 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 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, plaque can accumulate in the brain.
The theory is that when insulin-degrading enzyme is too busy shoveling excess sugar out of the brain, it is forced to leave plaque removal for another day (or never). 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% fat and, if the body is fueled by toxic processed fats, the brain will not function optimally, leading to neurological and psychological concerns.5
Repair Your Brain
In addition to eating a healthier whole foods diet and getting rid of junk foods, what else can we do to protect our precious brains?
Below are four natural brain cell-builders.
They belong to a class of supplements called nootropics, and have been shown to boost natural production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which literally grows new brain cells—something that for many years was thought to be impossible!
My Top 4 Natural Brain Builders
- Turmeric Plus8
- Mini Omega 3X: Omega-3 Fatty Acids (purified fish oils)7
- B12 Boost7
Take care of your brain—you only get one!