We are what we eat

We are what we eat – the influence of the diet on cognitive abilities and the memory
Journal Club 2014.07.01

Everyone will agree with the statement, that the healthy diet is supporting keeping for a long time good physical and intellectual fitness. However when we are reach the point of defining what the healthy diet is, it turns out , that the devil’s is in the details. Generally, the general view is that the proper diet should provide us with all needed macro and micro components of diet and in the appropriate amounts and proportions. When it comes to determination what amounts and proportion are appropriate it is nowadays a mess. When we think about keeping the mind fitness along with the ageing and about the influence of our dietetic habits on brain aging helpful are epidemiological studies showing positive impact of some diet components on the health of the brain. Among others: folic acid, beta-carotene, vitamin D3, omega-3 acids, vitamin B12 are showing positive correlations with mind fitness. Recently a positive effect of these components was confirmed in examinations with brain imaging techniques in order to detect deposits of beta-amyloid – a marker of the Alzheimer’s disease and the activity of the brain associated with the glucose usage as energy source – a marker of brain fitness. Research team led by Lisa Mosconi (Mosconi et al. BMJ Open, 2014, 4,) examined 49 healthy volunteers in New York from a high-risk group of falling ill with the Alzheimer’s disease. Volunteers filled in the dietary questionnaire based on habits of eating certain foods. Consumption of individual components of diet was calculated. Researchers examined how higher consumption of determined components influences the level of deposits of the beta-amyloid and the metabolism of the glucose in the brains of persons not showing signs of disease. Persons who had the best use of the glucose had increased consumption of folic acid and beta-carotene. Higher consumption of vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 acids correlated with the smaller content of beta-amyloid plaques in brains of participants in the study. It is an important conclusion from these examinations, that mentioned ingredients had a positive effect on the brain when came from the eaten food rather than supplements. These preliminary results call for undertaking further long-term research on the larger group of persons, in which a positive effect of these diet components will be confirmed and perhaps of other diet components which weren’t still taken into account. This observation is unusually significant for drawing up accurate guidelines for composing the anti-Alzheimer?s diet which appears as one of the most effective ways of the prevention of this illness and other forms of dementia.

Colors of Memory

Colors of memory

At the kind invitation of Professor Stępkowski, I would like to share a few thoughts in the blog under the attractiv title of “Cheerful Seniors”. At the sound of the word “cheerful” I am induced into a feeling of bliss.

When I was a student, my favorite occupation was reading books from different areas which have nothing in common. In this way, I came across a council how to deal with the mind so as not to waste a single moment of its activity. It came to my mind how my Teacher of Polish literature in primary school was amazed that I, the boy from the village, can talk about the events read in polish national epos “Pan Tadeusz”. The council and that memory merged, and I krew what to do on the field of not wasting even one blink of mind. So, waiting to get “baked beans” as common student meal at that time, I began to memorize the verses of our polish national epos. But the most fruitful place of doing this job, were Polish overcrowded trains and buses in the seventies of last century. Coming home for breaks from studies, I devoured, without much effort, verse by verse. So going back to study I enjoyed reciting for myself learned verses. What a joy it was!
Recently I was watching on You Tube great Daniel Barenboim conducting all nine Beethoven symfonies and there was no score before his eyes. All from memory! Nice to have something in common with this Great Musician and Conductor!

Ten years ago I had the privilage to work in the town of Mwanza in Tanzania, right on Lake Victoria. In its neighbourhood lies the village of Bujora. There in the sixties of the last century, a missionary priest from Canada, called by the local people Padre Klementi, created a museum documenting the history, customs, rituals, life in peacetime and during wars of the tribe called Wasukuma. When I visited this place and museum, my attention was drawn to the board showing the line of the kings of the tribe starting approximately 1570! I could not believe it! How is this possible? They did not know how to write! Guide explained that the one who began his reign, had an obligation to sing “song of Enthronement”. In its content he had to sing the names and achievements of his predecessors. And so from king to king! Let us praise oral tradition!

When the missionaries came to the area, in 1879 The first books were introduced. Then in 1950’s Padre Klementi started working among this tribe and created a wonderful museum.

A few years ago I read the news that in Japan lives a man one hundred year old, and each new year of life he begins learning a new foreign language. Some curios people asked him why he does that. He answerd, if I remember well, for the mind not to get aged.

Summarizing all of this I would say ” gray cells” love the color of memory!

Padre Antoni (from the same clan as Padre Klementi)
Fr Antoni Markowski
Society of Missionaries of Africa