Food, Mood and Cognition
Healthy Food, Healthy You
13%(1 in 8) of those over the age of 65 have
Almost 50% over the age of 85 have AD
AD triples healthcare costs for each person
AD is linked to such diseases as diabetes and
Causes are linked to diet, environment, and
It was originally thought that functional decline
and memory loss were due to plaques or tangles
in the brain that affect the hippocampus in the
Recently, research is suggesting that tangles are
not the cause rather the chemical communication
between the neurons is impaired.
Either way, a healthy diet plays a role in
prevention and treatment.
It was originally thought that age related physical
changes in the brain (loss of neurons) resulted in
It is now known that neurons are not lost with age
which means memory loss is not from age.
The function of the brain may be more about the
physical changes brought on by other diseases, poor
lifestyle habits like smoking and poor nutrition.
Twenty-five percent (25%) of oxygen is carried to
the brain from the carotid arteries to oxidize the
glucose in brain cells for the conversion into
The brain is highly sensitive to “inflammation” or
what is also referred to as “oxidative stress”
Chronic diseases cause an inflammatory
response that affects the brain and brain
Factors that cause chronic inflammation are age,
insufficient sleep, unhealthy gut flora, poor diet,
smoking, excessive alcohol, lack of exercise,
excess caloric intake and obesity.
Obesity causes a cellular inflammatory response
whereby the cells do not “recognize” insulin to
allow glucose into the cell.
Brain Health and Cognition
Insulin resistance that is caused by obesity or
from highly processed diets can lead to a form of
brain insulin resistance called “central insulin
resistance” or also referred to as Diabetes Type
Less insulin gets into the brain to be used by the
brain cells that causes a disruption of the action
of insulin on brain function.
Insulin plays a role in cognitive function, memory
Brain Health and Mood
If insulin levels are chronically low in the
brain, the affect is a loss of cognitive
function, loss of memory and loss of appetite
Excessive caloric intake and/or obesity and
abdominal adiposity are linked to insulin
resistance that causes an increase in
triglycerides. The increase in blood triglycerides
negatively affects other bioactive hormones such
as leptin that helps control mood.
Brain Health and Depression
Therefore, insulin and central insulin resistance
causes depression. It also has the potential to
exacerbate other mental disorders.
Brain Health and Diet
Poor diet quality causes obesity, insulin
resistance, inflammation, oxidative stress and
reduces the production of neurotrophic factors all
of which impairs brain chemistry.
Altered brain chemistry affects all organ systems
and one’s overall health.
Poor Diet Quality
A “Poor Diet Quality (PDQ)” is one that is high in
calories, refined foods(simple
carbohydrates), high sugar, high saturated fatty
acids, low fruit and vegetable(low nutrient, low
fiber) and low Omega 3 fatty acid especially
PDQ is linked to common mental disorders such
as depression and anxiety.
PDQ increase inflammation that is associated
with increased depression.
Diets high in refined starches, sugar, trans fatty
acids and saturated fatty acids are linked to
increases in inflammation.
As previously mentioned, glucose gets into cells
by the action of insulin.
Once glucose is in the cell, it is processed by the
organelle known as the mitochondria or power
house of the cell.
In the presence of oxygen, glucose in the
mitochondria is converted into energy.
Normal by-products of aerobic energy metabolism
is “free radicals.”
The body has build in metabolic systems to
counter act these free radicals.
PDQ however can over tax these systems from
the over production of free radicals.
Free radicals are also known as charged ions.
The ionic charge of a free radical damages cell
walls, known as oxidative damage, that damages
cellular proteins, fats and DNA.
Oxidative stress and damage are also associated
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is
responsible for the growth and health of neurons.
Affects learning and memory.
Protective against oxidative stress.
BDNF is associated with cognitive
impairment, depression, anxiety, other mental
disorders, energy metabolism and low levels may
be a cause of obesity.
It is now well known that chronic stress is a health
Chronic stress increases the release of cortisol
High glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, cause
accumulation, overeating, inflammation, gastroint
estinal disease, cardiovascular
disease, periodontal disease and decreases the
function and production of neurons in the
Gut health is directly linked to brain health.
The brain controls the GI tract for muscle
contraction, readiness for a meal and for
The GI tract conversely communicates with the
brain mostly via the vagus nerve.
Communication between the brain and gut are for
gut fullness(satiety), gut hormones such as leptin
and ghrelin for fuel regulation and immunity.
The GI tract has its own nervous system known
as the enteric nervous system (ENS) referred to
as the second brain.
The ENS has millions of neurons with over 50
million neurotransmitters. Ninety (90) percent of
the body’s serotonin and over fifty (50) percent of
dopamine is found in the gut. These two
hormones play vital roles in mood and sleep.
The GI tract also to a complex microbial
environment that plays a vital role in immunity.
The Brian-Gut axis has effects on motivation,
memory, learning and mood. Vagus nerve
stimulation is being studied for chronic resistive
An unhealthy gut affects the brain and an
unhealthy brain affects the gut.
GI Health and the Brain
The lining of the GI tract is affected by
Chronic inflammation leads to what is referred to
as a “leaky” gut, a gut that has increased
permeability. An example of this is Chron’s
disease whereby gliadin becomes permeable that
stimulates an immune response.
An unhealthy gut can cause a systemic or whole
body inflammatory response that also affects the
GI Health and the Brain
Microbes found in the GI tract are unique to each
Microbes help ferment indigestible foods, make
vitamins like vitamin K, and increase nutrient
Microbes maintain the health of the intestinal
lining preventing permeability of compounds that
can cause an inflammatory response.
GI Health and the Brain
Gut flora is dependent on diet. PDQ can reduce
the multiplication of certain microbes while
proliferating others causing an upset to the gut
flora and overall gut function.
Gut flora is involved in brain neuron and GI tract
neuron synthesis and growth.
Microbes help regulate the stress response and
pain reception. Healthy gut flora is linked to brain
development in infants.
Diet and Health
The best diet for overall brain and gut health are
the same. Diets that are low in refined processed
foods, saturate fatty acids, trans fatty
acids, sugars and are high in
fruits, vegetables, whole grains, monounsaturated
fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids(Omega
3’s), and nutrient dense is the diet to keep the
brain and gut healthy. The Mediterranean diet
pattern is recommended, however further
research is being conducted on the relationship
between brain health and diet.
Brian Health and Older Persons
Based on the information provided in this
presentation, how could it be applied to older persons
to not just treat disease but prevent it?
Specific to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive
function, what specific suggestions would you
recommend for the older persons?
Is there a place for supplementation based on the
information provided or not? Why or why not.
Adding this information to the information learned in
the class, how can diet and exercise be used to help
older person have active high quality lives? What plan
would you suggest? Be specific.