( Natural News ) Obesity is a metabolic disease that is now considered to be an epidemic. In the United States, obesity is a major contributor to some of the leading causes of death among Americans, which include heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
The main defining feature of obesity is the excessive accumulation and storage of body fat . Researchers have identified several contributing factors to this abnormal event, such as genetics and behavioral, metabolic and hormonal influences on body weight. But the culprit most commonly associated with obesity is the intake of too many calories coupled with a lack of exercise or physical activity. As pointed out by many studies, calories that are not burned through physical activities are stored by the body as fat.
Not surprisingly, the adult obesity rate in the U.S. is considerably high , exceeding 40 percent, because the standard American diet is made up of mostly sugar-laden beverages and fatty, highly processed foods. Aside from providing very little nutrients, research has found that these high-calorie foods make a person eat more than he actually needs because they are not satiating. This, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is behind the alarming rise in both childhood and adult obesity rates seen in the country. The link between inflammation and obesity
In an effort to understand what drives obesity at the molecular level, researchers at Ewha Womans University in South Korea decided to explore the mechanisms that lead to obesity . Their study, which appeared in the journal Nutrition Research, focused mainly on inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to obesity and other serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.
According to an article published in Science , alterations in the gene sequence and increased expression of RIPK1 , a key regulator of inflammation, are some of the main contributors to metabolic disease. When researchers inhibited the expression of RIPK1 in mice on a high-fat diet, they found that it not only reduced inflammatory responses, but also body weight and fat accumulation. This suggests that this inflammatory gene plays a crucial role in the development of obesity .
For their study, however, the Korean researchers focused on a mechanism that has only been proposed recently. This mechanism also involves inflammation, albeit in the brain instead of adipose tissue. Recent studies suggest that inflammation in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that governs systemic metabolism, may also be a driving force behind obesity. (Related: Researchers conclude that drinking soda during pregnancy causes obesity in offspring .)
The researchers hypothesized that a high-fat diet could trigger metabolic inflammation via transcriptional changes (i.e., changes in gene expression) in the hypothalamus. To test their hypothesis, they characterized obesity-related in vivo transcriptional alterations in the hypothalamus and their effects on functional networks.
The researchers fed two groups of mice either a control diet or a high-fat diet for 20 weeks before conducting microarray and gene ontology analyses of the animals’ hypothalami. They reported that in the brains of mice on a high-fat diet, immune-related pathways such as inflammatory signaling were overly activated. This was not the case with mice on the control diet.
Meanwhile, in mice deficient in leptin — the hormone released by fat cells to tell the brain, particularly the hypothalamus, to suppress appetite — the researchers found that genes involved in inflammatory pathways and cancer pathways were highly expressed. They noted a similar overexpression in the hypothalami of mice on a high-fat diet, which confirms their hypothesis that brain inflammation is heavily involved in obesity.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that, rather than dietary fat and genetic mutation, inflammation in the hypothalamus is likely to be the cause of excessive fat accumulation associated with obesity.
With the hottest day of the year so far coinciding with the last step in the Government’s lockdown roadmap, it is clear that the sun has put many of us in a cheerful mood, especially after the dark winter spent indoors.
Although we are not able to go to many of the popular sun spots across the globe, this summer has shown that we are able to soak up the rays in the UK and that provides us with the feel good factor that we may have missed in the past 18 months.
But what is it about the sunshine that makes us feel so happy? Here is the science behind why those rays are so good for us. It boosts our mood
Most of us will agree that it’s hard to feel unhappy in the sun. This is down to the link between sunlight and our serotonin levels – the hormone that makes us feel happy. It’s also why people are more likely to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when the shorter autumn days arrive and we creep into winter with fewer daylight hours.
There is plenty of research to back up this idea. One study undertaken in Australia found that people had higher levels of serotonin on bright sunny days than cloudy ones. Increased levels of this hormone generally lead to greater feelings of satisfaction and calmness and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
There is even research to show that people who use tanning beds may experience more frequent feelings of euphoria, which could explain why people develop a dependence on regular sessions. Although the connection isn’t entirely established yet, researchers speculate this could be down to the way UV light forces melanocytes, the cells that produce dark pigment in skin, to release endorphins. However, most experts also agree that the increased sun cancer risk negates the feel good factor. Sun improves our sleep
Regular exposure to sunlight encourages the production of melatonin – the hormone which helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. This encourages feelings of drowsiness, allowing us to drift off easier at night, which leads to us feeling happier in the day. Melatonin also helps to regulate our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock that signals when to be alert and when to rest – which can be thrown out of sync by exposure to blue light from technology, disrupted work patterns and light pollution.
In turn, this allows us to feel happier. Research shows that our amygdala – the emotional part of the brain – is significantly more reactive after a bad night’s sleep, meaning we are more likely to feel cranky throughout the day if we have spent the night tossing and turning. Time spent in the sun can help us sleep soundly. Our sex drive is given a lift
Believe it or not, even our sex drive is affected by time spent in the sun, so a spring heatwave is good news for those who have found their libido dampened somewhat in lockdown. Researchers at Medical University of Graz in Austria found that spending just one hour in the sun can boost a man’s testosterone levels by 69 per cent. In turn, this helps to balance mood, sex drive and cognitive function. The experts put this down to the role of vitamin D, which is produced after exposure to sunlight .
It’s the same situation for women. Researchers in China, who conducted a study on post-menopausal women, identified a link between low levels of vitamin D and low levels of oestrogen, the female sex hormone. Your bones will be given a boost
Vitamin D is also crucial for helping our body to absorb calcium, which is responsible for strengthening your bones. A lack of vitamin D has been associated with both osteoporosis, rickets and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
A review by the Cochrane Library found that the rates of falls in elderly people – which are partly down to the effects of brittle bones – could be cut by more than a quarter if the elderly were given supplements of vitamin D. However, in recent years many studies have questioned how effective supplements are in reducing rates of osteoporosis.
That’s not to say that sunlight can’t help though: more than 90 per cent of a person’s vitamin D requirement tends to come from casual exposure to sunlight, making it the best source of the nutrient. So how much exposure do we need to boost our health? On average, experts believe we should be aiming for 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week. So make sure you head outside for a walk today to get a boost of bone-strengthening vitamin D. It improves midlife brain health
While most of the research around sunlight and the brain has focused on serotonin levels, a dose of vitamin D could also be good for our intellect. In 2009, scientists from the University of Manchester found that higher levels of vitamin D are linked with improved mental ability in middle-aged and older men. Men in the study were tested for memory and speed recollection, as well as for mood and physical activity levels, before their blood samples were taken. The researchers found that men with higher levels of vitamin D performed consistently better than those with lower levels. Your eyes need sunlight
Dr Rangan Chatterjee, GP and author of Feel Great, Lose Weight , explains that light is measured in a unit called lux: if we spend 20 minutes outside – even on a cloudy overcast day – we are exposed to around 10,000 lux, compared with 500 lux if we spend time indoors. This is particularly important for children. Researchers at King’s College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that regular exposure to sunlight lowered the risk of nearsightedness – or myopia – in children and young adults by helping the eye produce dopamine, which aids in healthy eye development.
Exposure to natural light can also help […]
Paralyzed Speech Device (Photographs©2017 Barbara Ries. All rights reserved. 415-460-1440) An experimental brain implant that translates brain signals into words has been a success, say researchers in California.
It’s a major step towards the development of a technology that could help people communicate by thinking, potentially changing the lives of those who lose the ability to speak through injury or illness.
Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, worked with a man in his 30s who suffered a paralysing stroke more than 15 years ago and lost the ability to speak, reports the Wall Street Journal . He agreed to have electrodes surgically attached to the outer surface of his brain to test the neuroprosthesis.
The experiment was detailed in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Over the course of 50 separate sessions, the researchers recorded the man’s brain activity as he observed words displayed on a screen and imagined saying them aloud.
The researchers said they could identify the word the man was saying almost half the time, which rose to 76% when the scientists incorporated word-prediction algorithms.
“To our knowledge, this is the first successful demonstration of direct decoding of full words from the brain activity of someone who is paralyzed and cannot speak,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Eddie Chang, the paper’s senior author. “It shows strong promise to restore communication by tapping into the brain’s natural speech machinery.”
Experts say the high error rate, limited vocabulary – this study used just 50 words – and the time it takes to train the system to recognise imagined words mean there’s still a long way to go before the technology could be used practically in the real world.
However, the experiment has shown that the brain region responsible for speech continues to function even years after the ability to speak has been lost and that computers can be taught to decode full words from brain activity.
Stock image | Photo by spukkato/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News LATEST STORIES
CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Antioxidants are a buzzword in health circles that sometimes deliver empty promises. But when it comes to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, one antioxidant is a must-have in your protocol kit: Glutathione. Stock image | Photo by Inside Creative House/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News Glutathione is considered the body’s master antioxidant, and at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center , it’s the supplement we tell our patients they need it to dampen autoimmune response and lower the risk of developing new autoimmune diseases.
Glutathione protects cells from damage, supports general detoxification, acts as a natural chelator for toxic heavy metals and environmental toxins and supports healthy immune system function. Glutathione works by protecting energy-producing factories inside cells called mitochondria.
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit other molecules from going through oxidation, a chemical reaction that produces toxins called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that occur naturally but also enter our bodies through toxins in food, air, water and even medications. Left unchecked, free radicals damage cells, destabilize the immune system and contribute to the development of serious health problems.
Glutathione is a compound made by the body that protects cells and tissues from damage by free radicals. While the body makes glutathione, it can also be supplemented in absorbable forms or via nutrients that boost glutathione production.
Normally, our bodies should make enough glutathione to protect us. However, it’s common for glutathione to drop too low in our modern world. Even if we lead a very clean, nontoxic life, we cope with thousands of toxic chemicals in our daily environment, our food and our water. Sugary diets full of processed foods, food intolerances, leaky gut and undiagnosed infections are other examples of things that can deplete glutathione due to chronic inflammatory assaults on the cells.
Glutathione levels also decrease as we age, and our need for supplemental glutathione increases significantly. When glutathione production drops, you’re more vulnerable to developing autoimmune disease , chronic pain, chemical sensitivities, leaky gut and other immune-related disorders.
In fact, glutathione depletion is linked with a number of disease states and groups including the following: Aging.
Major injuries and trauma.
Patients with wasting diseases such as HIV /AIDS.
Gut-based diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Chronic fatigue syndrome.
Alcoholism and fatty liver disease.
Diabetes and low glucose tolerance.
One of the most important things you can do to improve glutathione status is to remove or mitigate stressors that deplete glutathione. These may include lack of sleep, smoking, food intolerances, diets high in sugars and processed foods, excess alcohol intake and hormone or immune imbalances.
If you have Hashimoto’s , this typically also means going on a gluten-free diet, as many studies show a connection between Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Additionally, research shows a link between poor glutathione status and autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism .
Recycle glutathione to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
One of the most effective approaches to dampen autoimmune-related inflammation is to support your body’s ability to recycle glutathione. Recycling glutathione means your body takes existing glutathione that has already been used in self-defense and rebuilds it so it can work again to protect the body.
For glutathione to be recycled, it must be reduced. There are two main forms of glutathione in the body: reduced glutathione and oxidized glutathione.
When there is sufficient reduced glutathione in the cells, they sacrifice themselves to free radicals to protect cellular mitochondria. An enzyme called glutathione peroxidase then sparks the conversion of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione, a free radical itself.
If there is sufficient glutathione in the cell, the newly unstable oxidized glutathione pairs with available glutathione with the help of an enzyme called glutathione reductase. This sends it back to reduced glutathione status and gets it ready to return to service protecting cells.
Glutathione recycling helps balance immune function and shield thyroid tissue from inflammation and autoimmune attacks. Glutathione also helps repair damaged tissues, such as in the case of leaky gut. Supplementing to increase glutathione levels – the RedRiver clinical research observations Between all of our clinics, we see several hundred patients each day, which puts us at an unparalleled advantage when it comes to honing in on the best support for patients. Below is an overview of what’s available to boost glutathione levels and what we have seen work the best for our patients. Glutathione recycling Glutathione recycling is a good place to start to increase glutathione activity inside of cells. A variety of nutritional and botanical compounds have been shown to support glutathione recycling, such as the following: N-acetyl-cysteine, which quickly metabolizes into intracellular glutathione. L-glutamine, which helps generate glutathione. Alpha-lipoic acid, which recycles and extends the life span of vitamin C, glutathione and coenzyme Q10, all of which are needed for glutathione recycling. Selenium, which is a cofactor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase that converts reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione to protect cells. Milk thistle, which significantly increases glutathione and improves the ratios of reduced and oxidized glutathione. Gotu kola, which increases glutathione peroxidase and glutathione in general. Cordyceps, which supports glutathione synthesis and activates the glutathione enzyme cycle. Taken together, these botanicals and compounds activate the glutathione peroxidase and reductase enzymes to promote a healthy glutathione recycling system.I use a stand-alone product to support glutathione recycling containing all of these ingredients called Glutathione Recycler by Apex Energetics. This product was developed by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, who pioneered our modern understanding of Hashimoto’s and glutathione.We have found this product works best when used in conjunction with a liposomal glutathione blend, which I discuss below. Liposomal glutathione Stock image | Photo by Shidlovski/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News We are very impressed with patients’ results from a liquid liposomal glutathione blend called Trizomal Glutathione by Apex Energetics, also formulated by Kharrazian. Trizomal Glutathione provides both bioactive glutathione and the glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine, meaning it’s for comprehensive glutathione support.Although dosages vary depending on the degree of inflammation, we generally start people […]
The urgency to remember a dangerous experience requires the brain to make a series of potentially dangerous moves: Neurons and other brain cells snap open their DNA in numerous locations — more than previously realized , according to a new study — to provide quick access to genetic instructions for the mechanisms of memory storage.
The extent of these DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in multiple key brain regions is surprising and concerning, says study senior author Li-Huei Tsai , Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and director of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, because while the breaks are routinely repaired, that process may become more flawed and fragile with age. Tsai’s lab has shown that lingering DSBs are associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive decline and that repair mechanisms can falter .
“We wanted to understand exactly how widespread and extensive this natural activity is in the brain upon memory formation because that can give us insight into how genomic instability could undermine brain health down the road,” says Tsai, who is also a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and a leader of MIT’s Aging Brain Initiative . “Clearly, memory formation is an urgent priority for healthy brain function, but these new results showing that several types of brain cells break their DNA in so many places to quickly express genes is still striking.”
In 2015, Tsai’s lab provided the first demonstration that neuronal activity caused DSBs and that they induced rapid gene expression. But those findings, mostly made in lab preparations of neurons, did not capture the full extent of the activity in the context of memory formation in a behaving animal, and did not investigate what happened in cells other than neurons.
In the new study published July 1 in PLOS ONE , lead author and former graduate student Ryan Stott and co-author and former research technician Oleg Kritsky sought to investigate the full landscape of DSB activity in learning and memory. To do so, they gave mice little electrical zaps to the feet when they entered a box, to condition a fear memory of that context. They then used several methods to assess DSBs and gene expression in the brains of the mice over the next half-hour, particularly among a variety of cell types in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, two regions essential for the formation and storage of conditioned fear memories. They also made measurements in the brains of mice that did not experience the foot shock to establish a baseline of activity for comparison.
The creation of a fear memory doubled the number of DSBs among neurons in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, affecting more than 300 genes in each region. Among 206 affected genes common to both regions, the researchers then looked at what those genes do. Many were associated with the function of the connections neurons make with each other, called synapses. This makes sense because learning arises when neurons change their connections (a phenomenon called “synaptic plasticity”) and memories are formed when groups of neurons connect together into ensembles called engrams.
“Many genes essential for neuronal function and memory formation, and significantly more of them than expected based on previous observations in cultured neurons … are potentially hotspots of DSB formation,” the authors wrote in the study.
In another analysis, the researchers confirmed through measurements of RNA that the increase in DSBs indeed correlated closely with increased transcription and expression of affected genes, including ones affecting synapse function, as quickly as 10-30 minutes after the foot shock exposure.
“Overall, we find transcriptional changes are more strongly associated with [DSBs] in the brain than anticipated,” they wrote. “Previously we observed 20 gene-associated [DSB] loci following stimulation of cultured neurons, while in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex we see more than 100-150 gene associated [DSB] loci that are transcriptionally induced.”
Snapping with stress
In the analysis of gene expression, the neuroscientists looked at not only neurons but also non-neuronal brain cells, or glia, and found that they also showed changes in expression of hundreds of genes after fear conditioning. Glia called astrocytes are known to be involved in fear learning, for instance, and they showed significant DSB and gene expression changes after fear conditioning.
Among the most important functions of genes associated with fear conditioning-related DSBs in glia was the response to hormones. The researchers therefore looked to see which hormones might be particularly involved and discovered that it was glutocortocoids, which are secreted in response to stress. Sure enough, the study data showed that in glia, many of the DSBs that occurred following fear conditioning occurred at genomic sites related to glutocortocoid receptors. Further tests revealed that directly stimulating those hormone receptors could trigger the same DSBs that fear conditioning did and that blocking the receptors could prevent transcription of key genes after fear conditioning.
Tsai says the finding that glia are so deeply involved in establishing memories from fear conditioning is an important surprise of the new study.
“The ability of glia to mount a robust transcriptional response to glutocorticoids suggest that glia may have a much larger role to play in the response to stress and its impact on the brain during learning than previously appreciated,” she and her co-authors wrote.
Damage and danger?
More research will have to be done to prove that the DSBs required for forming and storing fear memories are a threat to later brain health, but the new study only adds to evidence that it may be the case, the authors say.
“Overall we have identified sites of DSBs at genes important for neuronal and glial functions, suggesting that impaired DNA repair of these recurrent DNA breaks which are generated as part of brain activity could result in genomic instability that contribute to aging and disease in the brain,” they wrote.
The National Institutes of Health, The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, and the JPB Foundation provided funding for the research.
Mental and physical health can be boosted with a nutrient-dense, healthy diet. Many times, low levels of essential nutrients can cause a feeling of low and can be linked to depression, irritability, and anxiety. “One must understand the signs of nutrition deficiencies. Mood disorders can be caused by various factors such as psychological, biological, genetic, environmental, and circumstantial. Nutritional imbalance happens to be the most neglected biological factor for mood swings/disorders. Very few people emphasise the connection between nutrition and depression, while most of them easily understand the connection between nutritional deficiencies and physical health. One’s vitamin, mineral and key nutrition deficiencies can compromise optimal brain functioning and increase irritability, tiredness, and depression,” says Eshanka Wahi, Culinary Nutrition Coach.
While deficiencies are extremely unique to each individual, below are 7 nutrition inclusions that Eshanka recommends to boost mental and physical health. If your diet doesn’t comprise of nutrient-rich foods she recommends to take additional supplements for those listed below:
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D regulates the production of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine, and plays a vital role in hormonal balance. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with the presence of an active mood disorder. Mild Alzheimer’s, altered sleep patterns and mood issues, and fatigue are common disorders. To make one’s diet rich in vitamin D natural sources such as eggs, fatty fish, and mushrooms and fortified foods like milk, flour, rice, cheese, and oats should be consumed.
2. Vitamin B (B1, B6, B7, B12, B complex)
People with B vitamin deficiencies experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Folate is at the forefront of mood management. People fighting depression have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is present in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, peanuts, and other legumes, and citrus fruits.
Magnesium levels have a negative correlation with the occurrence of depression. The deficiency of magnesium is known to increase the occurrence of many mental syndromes like agitation, anxiety, irritability, confusion, asthenia, sleeplessness, headache, delirium, hallucinations, and hyperexcitability. Therefore, one must include magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts in their everyday diet
Iron Aids in the making of red blood cells, that carry oxygen around the body, and iron deficiency can lead to poor concentration, decrease in cognition (attention span, intelligence, and sensory perception functions), anxiety, irritability, and depression. The prolonging lack of iron can lead to headaches and breathlessness too. That is why choosing the right combination of food choices is the key. For instance, if one consumes a palak paneer and thinks that it will give enough iron, then they are mistaken. The calcium present in paneer limits the absorption of iron in spinach when consumed in combination. Instead, pair iron-rich sources with vitamin C. For example, food pairing to increase nutrient absorption includes Spinach with lemon juice. Iron capsule to be consumed with lemon water to increase nutrient absorption.
The lower the level of selenium in the diet the more reports of anxiety, depression, and tiredness. Higher selenium levels are directly associated with lower depressive symptoms. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain function, especially memory and mood. If your diet is low in good quality fats, like omega-3s, then your body can only make low-quality nerve cell membranes. Oily fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as are fish like cod and cod liver oil. These healthy fats can also be found in flaxseeds and walnuts. Extra Omega 3 Fish Oil supplements are recommended.
Zinc, another essential mineral that regulates the brain and body’s response to stress. It is the brain where zinc is found in the highest concentration in our body, making it central to healthy brain function. It isn’t just responsible for activating your central and peripheral nervous system but is also required for neurotransmitter, enzymatic and hormonal processes. Zinc deficiency does result in anxiety, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. Rich sources of zinc include meat, poultry, oysters, spinach, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dark chocolate.
Recall a phone number or directions just recited and your brain will be actively communicating across many regions. It is thought that working memory relies on interactions between these regions, but how these brain areas interact and properly represent memory has remained a mystery.
At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Nuo Li, assistant professor of neuroscience and a McNair Scholar, and his colleagues investigated the nature of the communication between brain regions involved in working memory and found evidence that a modular network organization is critical for persistent neural activity.
How brain regions communicate
Li and his colleagues were able to see that each hemisphere of the brain has a separate representation of a memory. However, the hemispheres are tightly coordinated on a moment-to-moment basis, resulting in highly coherent information across them during working memory.
In their study, the researchers engaged mice in a simple behavior that would require them to store specific information. They were trained to delay an instructed action for a few seconds. This time delay gave researchers the chance to look at brain activity during the memory process.
“We saw many neurons simultaneously firing from both hemispheres of the cortex in a coordinated fashion. If activity went up in one region, the other region followed closely. We hypothesized that the interactions between brain hemispheres is what was responsible for this memory,” Li said.
Li and his colleagues recorded activity in each hemisphere, showing that each one made its own copy of information during the memory process. So how are the two hemispheres communicating?
Li explained that through the use of optogenetics they were able to corrupt information in a single hemisphere, affecting thousands of neurons during the memory period. What they found was unexpected.
“When we disrupted one hemisphere, the other area turned off communication, basically preventing the corruption from spreading and affecting activity in other regions,” Li said. “This is similar to modern networks such as electricity grids. They are connected to allow for the flow of electricity but also monitor for faults, shutting down connections when necessary so the entire electrical grid doesn’t fail.”
In collaboration with Dr. Shaul Druckmann and Ph.D. student Byungwoo Kang at Stanford University, the researchers developed theoretical analyses and network simulations of this process, showing that this modular organization in the brain is critical for the robustness of persistent neural activity. This robustness could be responsible for the brain being able to withstand certain injuries, protecting cognitive function from distractions.
“Understanding redundant modular organization of the brain will be important for designing neural modulation and repair strategies that are compatible with the brain’s natural processing of information,” Li said.
Read the paper in the journal Cell.
/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here .
If we were to tell you that our human anatomy shares at least 50 percent of the same DNA as another living organism, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Apes, definitely. Chimpanzees, sure. Pigs, maybe — at least in the case of a certain indelicate former US president. But mushrooms? Not quite.
Surprising to many, a mushroom shares over half of its genetic makeup with humans due to a shared common ancestor — one which branched away from plants some 1.1 billion years ago.
This means that humans are more closely related to mushrooms than many plants are. And while this may seem like an unnecessary piece of trivia, it’s far more important than you could ever imagine.
This genetic connection has led to mushrooms playing a pivotal role in medical research, with around 40 percent of all pharmaceuticals being derived from mushrooms — everything from Penicillin to anticancer treatments — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
While the majority of us may believe that mushrooms are nothing more than a delicious accoutrement to pasta, pizza or steak, the humble fungi have so much more to offer. Said to be able to help with everything from immunity support and cognitive function to energy and relaxation, the broad applications of the recently anointed ‘superfood’ are vast and promising, and it’s largely due to how many species there are.
The fungi family is extensive, with more than 1.5 million varieties discovered, of which a small percentage serve as mind-bending psychedelics and an even smaller percentage are lethal. The rest, however, exhibit a seemingly endless stream of benefits. Helping us gain a better understanding of the idiosyncrasies of mushrooms is renowned author and entrepreneur Tero Isokauppila. This self-professed fungi fanatic is championing the mushroom movement and has propelled the cap-topped saprophytes into wellbeing stardom following the launch of his superfood company, Four Sigmatic , in Finland.
Since its US debut in 2015 the holistic start-up has won the world over with its impressive range of innovative mushroom supplements, which have been featured everywhere including Forbes , Vogue and Gwyneth Paltrow’s health-centric Goop .
Isokauppila grew up foraging for mushrooms with his brother and physiology professor mother in Finland (where his father was an agronomist) and when he decided to run a marathon, he used the knowledge he had acquired of wild foods and the human body to help in his training.
It was during that time that he stumbled upon the cordyceps, a particular type of stamina-boosting mushroom that not only vastly improved his training, but also inspired the idea that was to one day become his business.
While the newly-found mushroom was stimulating for the body, however, the same couldn’t be said for the tastebuds. So before long, the Finnish foodpreneur began searching for a simpler, more palatable way to consume it. Thus, mushroom coffee was born — not too surprising given Finland’s well-documented fondness for java (the country is the biggest consumer of coffee in the world).
Described as a “fruity, medium roasted cup of coffee,” Isokauppila’s brew promises no lingering fungi flavours, no jitters, no morning crashes, and no funky stomach repercussions either.
Plus, for those who aren’t partial to a cup of Joe there’s an array of other salubrious beverages on offer, including hot chocolates, elixirs (perfect for smoothies) and mochas all spiked with one ‘shroom or another. But with so many different types of mushroom out there and an equally comprehensive number of products, it can be difficult to know where to start. Isokauppila’s advice?
Begin your journey with the main four: Cordyceps , Lion’s Mane , Chaga, and Reishi. Reishi, often referred to as the ‘Queen of mushrooms,’ while still relatively unknown in the Western world has been used in the medicinal systems of Asian countries for years.
Not only can it boost the immune system and help to reverse liver damage, but the fungi is also described by Isokauppila as “the sleep and stress” shroom, thanks to its properties as an all-natural sedative. (You can find this in Four Sigmatic’s Mushroom Cacao Mix , which serves as the ultimate nightcap.)
Lion’s Mane is another species to note and is set to be your brain’s new best friend. The small, round, ivory-coloured mushroom, topped with cascading icicle-like spines similar to the strands of a lions mane, is an all-natural nootropic proven to strengthen memory, help with concentration and boost creativity. It is also, according to this mushroom maverick, “one of the only foods to have neuroprotective properties.”
Chaga, native to Isokauppila’s home country, “has incredibly high antioxidant elements,” while Cordyceps helps to support energy, stamina and athletic performance — both appear in the Four Sigmatic’s Instant Mushroom Coffee , but the list of mushrooms with magic properties doesn’t end there. Those on an aesthetic quest should acquaint themselves with the shiitake and the maitake — the first of which is believed to be a powerful skin booster, while the latter, proven to aid weight loss and digestion.
The thick-bodied Porcini mushroom contains more protein than any other commonly consumed vegetable and can help to settle down inflammation, while the petite-capped Shimeji is used in some treatments for asthma. The Turkey Tail mushroom boosts immunity and fights disease and the long-stemmed Enoki contains a plethora of antioxidants. It’s clear that when it comes to the mushroom kingdom, no two are quite the same.
While there are many wellness-boosting fads that come and go, it seems that mushrooms are offering something far more tangible than the usual trends. “Humans and fungi have been working together synergistically for thousands of years,” explains Isokauppila, “and although this may seem like a trend to the Western world — it is anything but.”
Whether you’re looking to expand your culinary horizon or just switch up your morning brew, it seems you need to be jumping on the mushroom wagon. They’re ultimately the true panacea, and they’ve been underfoot all along.
These local wellness brands are also making the most of mushrooms :
Kiwi best friends Emily Blanchett and Jessica Clarke were driven to […]
Wake up to this brain breakfast a few times a week and your noggin will thank you. If you want to start off the day benefiting your brain health, there’s one breakfast neurologists, neurosurgeons and other brain experts recommend overnight oats with walnuts and blueberries.
When making standard overnight oats , all you have to do is the following:
> Soak ½ cup rolled oats with 1 cup of almond milk.
In the morning, top with fresh blueberries and walnuts.
You’re more likely to eat healthy when you have a nutritious breakfast waiting for you in the morning, and this easy one helps to boost your brain health from the get-go.
“The foods we eat directly relate to how our brain functions,” says Randall Wright, MD , a neurologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. “When it comes down to diet and eating, we are seeing now that it’s all about brain energy. The brain uses a large portion of energy compared to the rest of the body.”
That’s why it’s important to fuel your brain with foods that help it combat stress and damage, which is exactly what this powerhouse breakfast will help you do. Here are four benefits of an overnight oats breakfast with blueberries and walnuts.
The delicious blueberry can help guard your brain against damage and improve its long-term function. Brain experts tend to recommend three diets for a healthy brain — all of which recommend fruit, and one of which recommends blueberries specifically.
“Typically, when I speak to patients about diets they should focus on for brain health, there are three main diets I refer them to: the Mediterranean Diet, the MIND diet and the DASH diet,” says Philip Stieg, MD , a neurosurgeon and founder of the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center.
Here’s what you need to know about each of those diets: The Mediterranean Diet : This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, high-fiber breads, whole grains and healthy fats, and is linked to lower rates of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, depression, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, per Michigan Medicine .
The DASH Diet : Also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, this diet focuses on foods that lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol, and recommends vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils, per the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . Dr. Stieg notes that diets that are healthy for the heart tend to be healthy for the brain, too.
The MIND Diet : The most famous diet for brain health, the MIND Diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is a hybrid of the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet and was formulated by researchers to emphasize foods that affect brain health. It includes plenty of vegetables, meat-free meals, nuts, occasional fish and olive oil, and specifically calls out blueberries, which have been linked to slower rates of cognitive decline, per the Mayo Clinic .
The MIND diet recommends two or more servings per week of any type of berry but calls out that blueberries may be potentially more beneficial. Older adults who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had the slowest rates of cognitive decline in a July 2012 study in the Annals of Neurology . The California Strawberry Commission partially funded the study, but it is worth noting because it reviewed data of over 16,000 participants from the Nurses’ Health Study over 20 years.
In the study, those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries delayed cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. Anthocyanidins, which are a subclass of flavonoids, can cross the blood-brain barrier to accumulate in areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory, like the hippocampus.
“It’s clear that berries, and particularly blueberries, have direct benefits,” says Marwan Sabbagh, MD , an Alzheimer’s expert at the Cleveland Clinic. “Flavonoids are very potent free radical scavengers and antioxidants.”
In other words, flavonoids can help protect against the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation that naturally occur in your body. Your body creates free radicals, unstable molecules that cause oxidative stress (which in turn can lead to cell damage), when you digest food, exercise, smoke or are exposed to environmental factors like sunlight or air pollution, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in a variety of diseases, including those that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
“The chemicals in blueberries are what the brain needs to protect itself,” Dr. Wright says. “When our diets don’t reflect that, that’s when disease may start.”
Antioxidants in blueberries can help prevent or delay cell damage in your body, but it’s best to get them through food — while diets high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables have been shown to be healthy, antioxidant supplements have not been shown to be helpful in preventing disease, per the NIH.
Nuts like walnuts are rich in vitamin E , which is known for its brain-protective qualities, per the Mayo Clinic. The MIND Diet recommends eating a handful of nuts at least five times per week in place of processed snacks like chips — just opt for the raw, unsalted kind without added sodium, sweeteners or oils.
Walnuts, in particular, pack the most alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, than any other nut. They also have higher levels of polyphenolic compounds (a type of antioxidant) than any other nut. Both ALA and polyphenolic compounds may help lower oxidative stress and inflammation — which are two causes of cognitive decline, according to the American Society for Nutrition .
“The cells in our body have cell walls constructed of lipids, or fats,” Dr. Stieg says. “Good fats help construct a normal, healthy cell wall, so you want to make sure you have the appropriate fats in your diet.”
Eating more walnuts increased adults’ performance on cognitive tests, regardless of how old they were, in a December 2014 study in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging […]
Double-strand DNA breaks, which occur when the phosphate backbones of both DNA strands are hydrolyzed, are considered the most significant DNA damage and have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other deadly diseases.
So, it’s surprising enough that previous research has shown the brain actually causes double-strand breaks (DSBs) when it is trying to create a fear-based memory. What’s even more shocking—and concerning—is the extent of these DSBs in multiple key brain regions, according to a new study by Li-Huei Tsai, professor of neuroscience at MIT and director of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
In a new paper published in PLOS One , Tsai and colleagues show that while the breaks are routinely repaired, the process may become more flawed and fragile with age.
“We wanted to understand exactly how widespread and extensive this natural activity is in the brain upon memory formation because that can give us insight into how genomic instability could undermine brain health down the road,” said Tsai. “Clearly memory formation is an urgent priority for healthy brain function but these new results showing that several types of brain cells break their DNA in so many places to quickly express genes is striking.”
In the most recent study, researchers in Tsai’s lab gave mice low-power electrical zaps to the feet when they entered a box to condition a fear memory. Then, the team used several methods to assess DSBs and gene expression in the brains of said mice.
Compared with control mice, the creation of a fear memory in those who were zapped doubled the number of DSBs among neurons in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, affecting more than 300 genes in each region—two brain regions known to form and store fear memories. Among the 206 affected genes common to both regions, many of the genes were associated with synapses.
“Many genes essential for neuronal function and memory formation, and significantly more of them than expected based on previous observations in cultured neurons are potentially hotspots of DSB formation,” the authors explain in the study.
Through RNA measurements, the researchers also demonstrated that an increase in DSBs correlated with increased transcription and expression of affected genes—including ones affecting synapse function—as quickly as 10 to 30 minutes after the foot shock exposure.
Surprisingly, the researchers also recorded gene expression changes in glia, or non-neuronal brain cells in the central nervous system. In glia, many of the DSBs that occurred following fear conditioning occurred at genomic sites related to the specific stress hormone glutocortocoid. Further tests revealed that directly stimulating glutocortocoid receptors could trigger the same DSBs that fear conditioning did. Moreover, blocking the receptors could prevent transcription of key genes after fear conditioning.
“The ability of glia to mount a robust transcriptional response to glutocorticoids suggest that glia may have a much larger role to play in the response to stress and its impact on the brain during learning than previously appreciated,” writes Tsai and her co-authors.
The scientists say more research will have to be done to prove that the DSBs required for forming and storing fear memories are a threat to later brain health, but their new study certainly adds evidence linking lingering DSBs with neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.