Here’s What Sugar Does to Your Brain

Here's What Sugar Does to Your Brain

We love sweet treats. But too much sugar in our diets can lead to weight gain and obesity, Type 2 diabetes and dental decay. We know we shouldn’t be eating candy, ice cream, cookies, cakes and drinking sugary sodas, but sometimes they are so hard to resist. It’s as if our brain is hardwired to want these foods. As a neuroscientist my research centers on how modern day "obesogenic," or obesity-promoting, diets change the brain. I want to understand how what we eat alters our behavior and whether brain changes can be mitigated by other lifestyle factors. Your body runs on sugar — glucose to be precise. Glucose comes from the Greek word glukos which means sweet. Glucose fuels the cells that make up our body — including brain cells (neurons). Dopamine "hits" from eating sugar On an evolutionary basis, our primitive ancestors were scavengers. Sugary foods are excellent sources of energy, so we have evolved to find sweet foods particularly pleasurable. Foods with unpleasant, bitter and sour tastes can be unripe, poisonous or rotting — causing sickness. So to maximize our survival as a species, we have an innate brain system that makes us like sweet foods since they’re a great source of energy to fuel our bodies. When we eat sweet foods the brain’s reward system — called the mesolimbic dopamine system — gets activated. Dopamine is a brain chemical released by neurons and can signal that an event was positive. When the reward system fires, it reinforces behaviors — making it more likely for us to carry out these actions again. Dopamine "hits" from eating sugar promote rapid learning to preferentially find more of these foods. Our environment today is abundant with sweet, energy rich foods. We no longer have to forage for these special sugary […]

Scientists Reveal a Link Between Brain Fog and Inflammation

Scientists Reveal a Link Between Brain Fog and Inflammation

When people get sick, they often also feel tired, which can be as troublesome as their disease. A team of researchers has learned more about this connection. Reporting in the journal NeuroImage , they have shown that inflammation, which is a natural biological response to illness, can have a detrimental impact on the brain’s state of alertness and the ability to maintain it. "Scientists have long suspected a link between inflammation and cognition, but it is very difficult to be clear about the cause and effect," said the co-senior author of the study Dr. Ali Mazaheri, of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health. "For example, people living with a medical condition or being very overweight might complain of cognitive impairment, but it’s hard to tell if that’s due to the inflammation associated with these conditions or if there are other reasons. Our research has identified a specific critical process within the brain that is clearly affected when inflammation is present." In this study, the scientists zeroed in on a part of the brain that functions in visual attention. Twenty young men volunteered to get a vaccine for salmonella typhoid, which results in temporary inflammation but doesn’t have many other side effects. On a different day, the volunteers were also given a water injection as a control. The cognitive responses of the study participants were assessed by showing them images on a computer a few hours after they got the vaccine or the placebo, and brain activity was measured as they took the attention test. Blood was also taken to measure their inflammation levels. Separate attention processes that involve different regions of the brain were assessed in this study. Alerting involves obtaining and maintaining an alert state, orienting is related to choosing and prioritizing sensory information, and […]

3 ways to boost productivity by creating a better work area

3 ways to boost productivity by creating a better work area

For many people, a cluttered desk is normal. It’s easy to get caught up in work and forget to clear away papers, pens, or other items used during your everyday work. However, this can be detrimental to working proficiently as clutter has been shown to have a profound effect on our mood and self-esteem. Having a tidy workspace is important, and if you’ve been feeling more stressed or anxious at work recently, your messy desk may be contributing to that. Here are some ways you can manage a messy workspace and enhance your work well-being. 1. Remove and reorganise The first thing you need to do is to take a look at your work area. According to research published by the University of Chicago Press, a messy workspace can be a self-defeating environment. This means that the less organised your surroundings, the more likely you are to produce subpar work by taking an easier route or giving up on a task altogether. The more clutter around you, the harder your brain has to work to focus on one task. Eliminating this as much as possible is a key step towards success in your workflow. If you have a lot of papers haphazardly strewn around your area, consolidate them into an orderly desktop storage organiser. Organising your important documents into a space in or on your desk where you can easily access them is critical, and will help save time when you need to pull them out. Put all pens, post-it notes, and small items away and out of sight. Once you remove all unnecessary elements from your work table, you’ll be able to get into a productive work stream. 2. Create a schedule During a work day, there are usually several duties that need to be checked on, completed, […]

David Attenborough health: Presenter’s worsening condition making him ‘run into problems’

David Attenborough health: Presenter's worsening condition making him ‘run into problems'

Sir David Attenborough, 93, is a broadcaster and natural historian. He has entertained millions with his iconic voice and documentaries offering a peak into our mysterious planet and its inhabitants. David is an advocate for saving the planet and championing its protection and in between discussing how to save the planet, David mentioned a health struggle he has experienced. Dementia care: Dementia care: The activity shown to lower your risk Dementia care: Vital skill that could determine risk of condition Dementia symptoms: Five early signs of the disease Two years ago, while preparing for Blue Planet II, he also admitted he was taking longer to write the script because of the struggles with recalling the proper names. As people grow older, they experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions they’ve previously taken for granted. Memories and names take longer to learn and becomes difficult to recall information. DON’T MISS Dementia warning: Eating too much of this may increase your risk Dementia test: ‘Velcro’ style test could spot Alzheimer’s symptoms Age-related memory loss The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age, so significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of ageing. But just as it is with muscle strength, a person has to use it or lose it. Lifestyle, habits, and daily activities have a huge impact on the health of one’s brain. Whatever the age, there are many ways a person can improve their cognitive skills, prevent memory loss, and protect your grey matter. Dementia: Doing this activity may slow symptoms Type 2 diabetes: Experts agree this diet will keep blood sugar levels low – what is it? Jenny Ryan health: ‘I felt like I had a fish bowl on my head’ Chaser on health struggle How to live longer: Best […]

3 Health Benefits of Guggul + Side Effects

3 Health Benefits of Guggul + Side Effects

Guggul has long been used as a traditional medicine for a variety of health conditions. There is evidence that the active components inside this plant have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Learn about the potential health benefits of guggul as well as the side effects. Guggul is the most common name for a small medicinal tree Commiphora Mukul (Wightii), which is mostly found in the Indian subcontinent. In Ayurveda, guggul dry gum resin is obtained from the stem of the Guggul tree. It has been used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic medicine system [ 1 ]. Guggul is one of the oldest Ayurvedic herbs taken orally for a variety of diseases. The term “guggul” in Sanskrit means “protects against diseases”. Guggul supplements are sometimes referred to as guggulipid or guggul lipid [ 2 ]. Despite its long history and purported health benefits, the available clinical research on guggul is limited. Guggul contains a mixture of sterols, steroids, esters, and alcohols with multiple purported benefits: Steroids and sterols : The main active component of guggul is thought to be guggulsterone (E and Z). Other steroids found in guggul include guggulsterone M, dihydroguggulsterone, and guggulsterol Y. These steroidal components may have anti-inflammatory properties [ 3 ] Triterpenoids : Myrrhanone (A, B) and Myrrhanol (A, B, C) may have anti-inflammatory activity [ 2, 4 ]. The following purported benefits of guggul are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of guggul for any of the uses listed below. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking guggul. It should never be used as a replacement for approved medical therapies. Lowering Cholesterol A number of older clinical trials performed in India show that guggul may help with high cholesterol. In these studies, supplementation with […]

How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

There are a whole bunch of alleged memory vitamins and supplements to help you concentrate and boost your brain function. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation, dodgy studies, and things we just don’t know when it comes to which vitamins actually help with memory and concentration. This article will dig into the current research to pick four of the best vitamins and supplements to boost your memory and overall brain function. Vitamin vs Supplement First, let’s talk about the difference between a vitamin and a supplement. Vitamins are simply organic compounds that are necessary in small quantities to sustain life. [1] We’re talking the vitamin A, B, Cs here. Vitamins are in the unprocessed, healthy foods you eat every day and are also available as daily supplements in pill form. Or as chewy, edible cartoon characters. Supplements are just extra pills, liquids, or cartoon characters that you consume in addition to the actual food you eat. Supplements can include but are not limited to vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, hormone building blocks, and other compounds that are synthesized or extracted from natural sources. What Research Says About Vitamins and Supplements Now, we need to talk about the current state of the research on memory vitamins and brain supplements. The only real consensus seems to be that much more research needs to be done to truly answer which vitamins and supplements are best for your memory. Supplements are big business. In 2015, Americans spent 643 million dollars on supplements, and a quarter of Americans over 50 take them regularly. [2] That’s a lot of money spent on an extremely unregulated and under-researched industry. Here’s what we do know: The brain needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. We also have some studies on rats and in small samples of […]

Your brain on sugar: What the science actually says

Your brain on sugar: What the science actually says

Summary: From reducing memory capability to increasing the risk of diabetes and obesity, researchers investigate how sugar affects the brain and body. Source: The Conversation We love sweet treats. But too much sugar in our diets can lead to weight gain and obesity, Type 2 diabetes and dental decay. We know we shouldn’t be eating candy, ice cream, cookies, cakes and drinking sugary sodas, but sometimes they are so hard to resist. It’s as if our brain is hardwired to want these foods. As a neuroscientist my research centres on how modern day “obesogenic,” or obesity-promoting, diets change the brain. I want to understand how what we eat alters our behaviour and whether brain changes can be mitigated by other lifestyle factors. Your body runs on sugar — glucose to be precise. Glucose comes from the Greek word glukos which means sweet. Glucose fuels the cells that make up our body — including brain cells (neurons). Dopamine “hits” from eating sugar On an evolutionary basis, our primitive ancestors were scavengers. Sugary foods are excellent sources of energy, so we have evolved to find sweet foods particularly pleasurable. Foods with unpleasant, bitter and sour tastes can be unripe, poisonous or rotting — causing sickness. So to maximize our survival as a species, we have an innate brain system that makes us like sweet foods since they’re a great source of energy to fuel our bodies. When we eat sweet foods the brain’s reward system — called the mesolimbic dopamine system — gets activated. Dopamine is a brain chemical released by neurons and can signal that an event was positive. When the reward system fires, it reinforces behaviours — making it more likely for us to carry out these actions again. Dopamine “hits” from eating sugar promote rapid learning to preferentially […]

Wake up refreshed: 7 tiny changes that’ll result in better sleep – every single night

Wake up refreshed: 7 tiny changes that'll result in better sleep – every single night

Sleep isn’t a luxury. In fact – skimping on zzz’s compromises everything from your immune system to your memory. When we sleep not only are we getting some much-needed rest from our increasingly busy lives, we are also allowing out body to pretty much regenerate and renew itself. It’s true. For instance, evidence suggests that the brain’s trillions of nerve cells literally rewire themselves when we sleep, and as for our skin – well, there is a reason it is called beauty sleep, you know. Getting enough sleep is all sorts of good for our health, and can actually reduce your risk for heart problems, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer. The general advice is that we should aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep at night, something many of us struggle to get. However, sometimes small changes can end up having big and long-lasting effects , and if you are struggling with your sleep, try making one (or all) of these adjustments and see how you get on: 1. Ditch the afternoon latte If you have trouble falling asleep at night or if your sleep is restless , caffeine may be the issue. Our ability to recover from the effect of caffeine diminishes as we age, so it may be time to give up late-night coffees—or even late-afternoon ones. 2. Swap your regular cuppa for camomile tea Experts are out on whether or not herbal teas actually have an effect of sleep, but what we do know is that a calming evening routine can massively improve your chance of falling asleep when you head hits the pillow. Entering sleep in a more relaxed state aids in the quality of sleep you get. Even if tea isn’t a cure-all in terms of sleep, it’s also […]

10 Acetylcholine Benefits, Function & Supplements

10 Acetylcholine Benefits, Function & Supplements

Acetylcholine is a hot topic within the realm of memory enhancement. It is a neurotransmitter that is critical for the everyday functioning of the brain, particularly in the areas of movement, learning & memory, and sleep quality. Check out this post to learn how to promote balanced acetylcholine in your body and function at your very best. What Is Acetylcholine? Acetylcholine is used by organisms in all domains of life for a variety of purposes. It is believed that choline , a precursor to acetylcholine, was used by single-celled organisms billions of years ago, for creating the cell layers [ 1 ]. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is used for many things: from stimulating muscles to memory and sleep . Acetylcholine is synthesized from acetyl-CoA (which comes from glucose) and choline, with the help of the enzyme choline acetyltransferase [ 2 ]. Acetylcholine controls movements by causing muscle contractions. Acetylcholine and histamine interact together to contract muscles in the lungs [ 3 , 4 ]. In the brain, it is involved in memory and attention, and promotes the phase of sleep associated with dreaming (REM sleep) [ 5 , 6 , 7 ]. Too little acetylcholine in the memory center of the brain (hippocampus) has been associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s [ 5 ]. Scopolamine, a drug that blocks acetylcholine, impaired acquisition of new information in humans and animals [ 8 , 9 ]. In monkeys, disruption of the supply of acetylcholine to the brain (neocortex, hippocampus) impaired the acquisition of factual information (discrimination learning) and also produced forgetting comparable to human amnesia [ 10 , 11 ]. In an observational study on almost 1400 people, higher choline intake was related to better cognitive performance (verbal and visual memory) [ 12 ]. There is a link between acetylcholine and […]

12 Health Benefits of Saffron + Side Effects & Dosage

12 Health Benefits of Saffron + Side Effects & Dosage

Saffron, often referred to as the ”golden spice” has been used as a seasoning and coloring agent in food for centuries. Modern research confirms the benefits of saffron for mental health, eyesight, and immunity, but casts doubt on other traditional uses. Read on to discover the uses, benefits, and side effects of saffron. Saffron, also known as Za’faran, is a spice derived from the Crocus sativus plant. Alluding to its yellow color and high cost, saffron is often referred to as the Golden Spice. Saffron has been used as a seasoning in food and as a coloring agent for over 4 millennia. Today, over 90% of the world’s saffron supply stems from Iran [ 1 ]. The Crocus sativus flower consists of thread-like, crimson-colored structures known as stigmas. The stigmas are collected and dried, resulting in the saffron spice [ 1 ]. Saffron is composed of a variety of chemical compounds that give rise to its taste, color and health benefits. Proponents: May help with Alzheimer’s disease May relieve depression Helps with painful periods and PMS Supports the immune system May enhance physical performance May protect the brain, heart, and liver Most benefits lack stronger clinical evidence Effective doses can’t be reached without supplements Cooking may destroy some beneficial components Potentially dangerous to pregnant women Historically, saffron was used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments including: Similarly, saffron was often included in various preparations used for pain relief [ 1 ]. In modern medicine, saffron has gained popularity for its wide range of therapeutic applications, including but not limited to [ 1 , 2 ]: Today, a number of saffron formulations exist containing doses that have been proven to have a positive outcome. These include [ 3 ]: Itch cream Scar removal cream Tablets Infusion into […]