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Autoare: Jenny Brockis, Melbourne, ianuarie 2016
‘To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.’ Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Think of your brain as a car and your body as a highway. Would you prefer to be driving a brand new Ferrari, or a rust bucket leaking oil and coughing smoke all over the road? If your brain was a car, and you knew it needed fuel, what sort of fuel would you choose? Premium high octane, economy or diesel? What sort of car would you drive? Would you look after it, washing, waxing and cleaning it on weekends, or would you be one of those people who smoked on the way to work and left lolly wrappers and food crumbs all over the seats? Substitute your brain for the car. How well do you fuel your brain? Are you eating clean, or is every night a frenzy of fast food and fizzy drinks? Then there’s alcohol… Paleo, Pritikin and Pizza Hut aside, we now know from years of nutritional research that our choice of foods can influence:
■ our memory
■ our general cognitive skills
■ our mood
■ our mental health
■ our ability to perform well in the workplace
■ even our potential risk of brain disease.
We eat because we are hungry, because we are bored or to be social. We eat for pleasure or because we are miserable. We sometimes even eat because we are forced to (remember those dreaded cold brussels sprouts from childhood?). What we are often blissfully unaware of however, is the influence that the many different physiological, psychological, social and environmental factors have on determining the how, what and when of our eating. These in turn impact our decision making and, importantly for many of us, our business outcomes. So how do we keep our brains in optimal physical condition? In the Neuron Grand Prix, what needs to happen to claim podium position?
You’re such a fathead The human brain is around 60 per cent fat, so the next time you call someone a fathead, they are well within their rights to say, ‘Same to you’. Consuming the right fats to sustain our brain’s function and maintain our neural architecture is absolutely critical to functional integrity and brain performance. The brain can produce its own cholesterol, but we rely entirely on our dietary intake of essential fatty acids (omega-3) to create neurotransmitters and keep neuronal membranes flexible for optimal brain function. Low levels of omega-3 may cause your brain to age faster. Studies by ZS Tan and others using MRI scans and memory tests showed that those in the lowest 25th percentile for omega-3 consumption had smaller brain volumes and scored lower on memory, abstract thinking and problem solving. An imbalance or overconsumption of bad fats changes the brain and contributes to poorer brain performance. Research has linked trans fats, as found in margarines, fast foods, baked snacks, biscuits, pies and frozen pizza, to poorer memory in young and middle-aged men. As Beatrice Golumb expresses it, ‘Trans fats increase the shelf life of foods and reduce the shelf life of people’. For those in the earlier part of their career, where performance matters, paying attention to food choices can make a difference. Dr Golumb’s study found the following:
■ Men under the age of 45 who ate more trans fats performed worse on word memory tests, even after taking into account variables of age, education, ethnicity and depression.
■ Each additional gram of trans fat consumed was associated with an estimated 0.76 fewer words correctly recalled.
■ Those eating the highest amount of trans fats overall showed a 10 per cent reduction in words remembered compared with those adults who ate the least trans fats.