08 October 2010

Dietary Interventions for Prevention and Reversal of Brain Aging

As part of Symposium II at American College of Nutrition conference in New York City, we are now enjoying a talk by PATH Medical director Eric Braverman, M.D., FACN.

Braverman starts out talking about how "the brain is the most important organ" and you can have "too highs and too lows" such as in blood pressure, etc. He says he operates on the view that the purpose of being a doctor is to improve health in dramatic ways, which he adds should be measured.

He has a slide up of several examples of aging patterns: "pause," "decline in," and "onset age." One example is "osteopause," "bone sensity" and "30", or "menopause," "estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in women" and "40."

Brain aging, from his perspective, has to be simplified to get anywhere. He "boils down" to loss of neurotransmitters and hormones in aging that leads to widespread down.

"Aging is marked by neuropsychatric decline," he says, along with other factors involving neurotransmitters and hormone loss.

Lots of hormones are involved in aging. The hormone changes FSH and LH go up, leptin goes up, insulin up, but insulin growth factor, DHEA, vitamin D, testoterone, estradiol all go down.

Age 30 - HGH, IGF-1,3 deficiency
Age 40 - Testosterone, estrogen deficiency
Age 50 - DHEA, thyroid deficiency

Braverman is going to focus on leptin now. First thing to not forget is that it's both an adipose hormone and a hypotholamic hormone. It's an integral component of energy homeostasis and body weight regulation.

There's a close interaction also with leptin and dopamine D2 receptors, as well as other genes involved that are associated with high BMI.

"Leptins are kind of funny because when they go low they're associated with dementia in aging," he says. "Ironically, on the other side, high leptins in obesity are correlated with decreased testosterone, estrogen as well."

Leptin impinges on many brain areas in addition to the hypothalamus. If you have a sick body, you have a sick brain.

But let's talk about obesity, he says, it's what kills you, speeds up the aging process and reduces lifespan by 15 years. One of five brain problems costing the country at least a hundred billion or more is obesity, addiction, neuropsychiatric problems, violence and cognitive impairments.

There should be more awareness between the distinction of Normal-Weight Obesity and Overweight-Obesity.

"I really see muscle mass as critical," he says. "If you're thin and flabby," all the bad things that come with obesity are coming for you any way including metabolic syndrome (increased triglycerides, increased LDL, lower HDL, etc.).

He likes the DEXA scan much better than BMI. In fact, he had a few slides on this topic. But that's a different story. In summary, he says, "the obesity epidemic is much worse than we think."

Aging is marked by "metabolic imbalances," then shares a little poem which he calls the "Description of Aging."

Your brain ages when
you burn up
you dry up
you swell up
you turn to stone
you get choked by death
you rust...

So, finally, now he is discussing potential agents that will increase leptin sensitivity and lower leptin levels. It's a long list (but I only got to two):

-vitamin D
-fish oil
-herbal supplements

There's some drugs too:


Lifestyle effects:

-7 hrs sleep each night
-bariatric surgery
-physical activity
-decreased stress

-high testosterone
-increased DHEA
-lower estrogen

Gosh, there are a lot of agents:

- elevated TGs
-Hypercaloric diets rich in SFA or PUFAs

He's going to summarize that obesity epidemic speeds up aging, leptins play a role (it's the "connection between the brain and fat cells"), and there's a synergistic effect dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA and serotonin that is the "Brain and Body Connection."

We can emphasize brain and body repair mechanisms with the "four horesemen": Natural, pharmaceutical, hormonal and lifestyle agents to promote the synergistic action of dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA and serotonin.

He's got a whole table with several agents. I see caffeine on there, which is what I think I need, plus fish oil, acetyl carnitine, CoQ, theanine, tryptophan, magnesium, folic acid, etc.

"If we're going to keep our intelligence with age, we're gonna have to have neurogenesis," he says. "I was taught that there was one neurotransmitter in one neuron. Now we know that there are 70 neurotransmitters in a neuron."


For such an interesting title, not sure this talk delivered. I guess I was hoping for a step-by-step on how to prevent and reverse brain aging. But, diet and exercise, eating lots of natural agents and pharmaceuticals seems to be the key.

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