Could salmon and sunshine prevent brain damage?

Brain-damageWant to keep your brain in tip-top condition? Then you may want to put mackerel and mushrooms on your menu or start eating your salmon in the sun!

That’s because a new study led by University of Kentucky researchers suggests that a diet low in vitamin D causes damage to the brain.

In addition to being essential for maintaining bone health, new evidence shows that vitamin D serves important roles in other organs and tissue, including the brain.

The study, published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed that middle-aged rats that were fed a diet low in vitamin D for several months developed free radical damage to the brain. Additionally, many different brain proteins were damaged.  The vitamin D deficient rats also showed a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory.

“Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how during aging from middle-age to old-age how low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain,” said lead author on the paper Allan Butterfield, professor of Chemistry, director of the Center of Membrane Sciences, faculty of Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and director of the Free Radical Biology in Cancer Core of the Markey Cancer Center. “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences.”

vitamin D bookPreviously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s also been linked to the development of certain cancers and heart disease.

The elderly are particularly prone to have low vitamin D levels.

Butterfield recommends that people consult their physicians to have their vitamin D levels determined. If they turn out to be low it’s important to normalize them either through diet or sunlight exposure to help protect the brain.

low that they eat foods rich in vitamin D, take vitamin D supplements, and/or get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day to ensure that vitamin D levels are normalized and remain so to help protect the brain.
Surprisingly few foods contain vitamin D.  That’s because your body is built to get it from sunlight skin rather than from food. However, if your body has enough, it doesn’t matter whether you got it through your skin or through your stomach.

SalmonThere are three vitamin D super foods:

  • Salmon (especially wild-caught)
  • Mackerel (especially wild-caught)
  • Mushrooms (exposed to ultraviolet light)

Other food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Tuna canned in water
  • Sardines canned in oil
  • Milk or yogurt – fortified with vitamin D
  • Beef or calf liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

sunlightIf all that sounds a little too fishy for you, then you can boost your vitamin D from 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day.

I’m off to get mine now!

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Getting Cheery Over Cherries!

Regular readers of SRxA’s Word on Health will be familiar with the many claimed health benefits of fruit. Bananas for HIV prevention, citrus to safeguard us against stroke, berries to prevent Parkinson’s Disease and even exotic cupuaçu for improved reproductive health.

According to many, including TV’s Dr. Oz, the latest superfruit on the block is tart cherries. Extensive research has linked the delicious bright red fruit to a number of benefits, including better sleep, reduced pain from gout and arthritis, reduced post-exercise muscle and joint pain as well as reduced cholesterol, and decreased risk for atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Oz, has gone so far as to say that tart cherries are the ultimate antioxidant.

New research from Oregon Health & Science University presented last week at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference confirmed that tart cherries can help to reduce chronic inflammation and can help people with osteoarthritis manage their disease.

In a study of twenty women ages 40 – 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis, the researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for those women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.

With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it’s promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications,” said principal study investigator Kerry Kuehl, M.D. “I’m intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults.”

Often characterized as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Athletes are often at a greater risk for developing the condition, given their excessive joint use that can cause a breakdown in cartilage and lead to pain and injury.

Anthocyanins – the antioxidant compounds in tart cherries – appear to reduce inflammation to levels comparable to some well-known pain medications.

Previous research on tart cherries and osteoarthritis found that a daily dose of tart cherries helped reduce osteoarthritis pain by more than 20%.

Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu of her professional athletes. She claims they are a natural and easy way to manage pain and also taste great.

Never heard of tart cherries, or concerned that they have such a short season?  The great news is that they are available year-round in dried, frozen, powder and juice forms too.

Feeling Fruity?

I’m sure all of our readers are familiar with the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Which, of course, got us musing, what about other fruit?  Well, it turns out that “An orange a day may keep strokes away!”  At least, it seems, for women.

According to a study just published in Stroke eating high amounts of citrus fruit, such as oranges and grapefruit, reduces the risk of ischemic stroke by 19%.

Researchers say the key to the reduced risk is a certain flavinoid found in citrus – flavonones. Citrus fruits and juices are the main dietary source of flavanones.

The findings were part of the Nurses’ Health Study, which included nearly 70,000 women who were followed for 14 years and reported on their dietary intake every four years.

While the risk of stroke was lower in those who ate citrus fruit, not all of the women’s flavonoid consumption came from citrus fruit. Flavonoids are also found in other types of fruit, vegetables, tea, and best news of all…dark chocolate and red wine.

This study confirms a previous findings that vitamin C and potassium, both of which are found in citrus fruits can protect against  heart disease, ischemic stroke and intracerebral hemorrhage.

Although some experts say that further prospective studies are needed to confirm these associations, we know what we’ll be putting in our shopping carts this week.

New Superfood on the Block

For our readers interested in ever-changing superfood trends, SRxA’s Word on Health has news for you!  Keep an eye out for cupuaçu.  Apparently it’s a melon sized fruit, with a thick shell found in the jungles of Colombia, Peru and Brazil.   While it looks a lot like a coconut, those in the know say it tastes like a cross between banana, chocolate, and pineapple.

It is packed with phytonutrient polyphenols, vitamins B1, B2, and B3, fatty and amino acids, and at least nine antioxidants , which is why, we suspect, it’s been nicknamed  “pharmacy of the Amazon”.

Its relative obscurity and high-nutrient profile makes it a powerful competitor to other recently popularized superfruits: acai and pomegranate.

Cupuaçu is used as a remedy for abdominal pain, for boosting the immune system rejuvenating and increasing the elasticity of skin.  It’s also said to be  especially beneficial to reproductive health.

Not surprising then, that several corporations have begun production of cupuaçu-based food supplements including pills, drinks, smoothies and sweets.

Expect this to be coming to stores near you soon.  In the meantime we suggest you learn how to ask for it.  For our non-Portuguese readers the correct pronunciation of cupuaçu  is koo-pwah-sue.

For more of the latest news on advances in reproductive health and aesthetics check out SRxA’s team of clinical advisors in Reproductive Health and Aesthetic Dermatology!