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Question: What steps can we take to protect our brains from aging?

Jonny Bowden: Well, you have to understand that one of the things that ages the brain, besides oxidation, is something we call inflammation. That’s another of what I call the “Four Horsemen of Aging.” And antioxidants will protect the cells in the brain just as the will protect the cells in the rest of the body. You also to really protect the brain, you really need a lot of anti-inflammatories in your body. If you look at any disease process, whether it’s Alzheimer’s or dementia, or anything that affects the heart, or the bones, or muscles, there’s always inflammation as a component. It flies beneath the radar, it’s not the kind of inflammation that you feel necessarily, when you feel a pain in your knee or stub your toe and everything gets all red and inflamed. It’s a kind of subclinical inflammation that’s existing all the time and it happens in the brain. And you see that in autopsies of Alzheimer’s patients.

So, the more we can eat foods that have natural anti-inflammatories and take nutrients, supplements that are powerful anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, the better we protect the brain. And of course, things that have nothing to do with food, like exercise, because that gets oxygen into the brain and it helps keep the circulatory paths running and going. So, this kind of lifestyle; a lot of activity, and a lot of anti-inflammatories, and a lot of antioxidants, goes a long way towards protecting the brain.

Question: Are there any specific foods that protect the brain?

Jonny Bowden: Well, no food is all things to all people. I think of foods like friends. Like you’ve got a friend that you’d go to a basketball game with and he’s great for that, but maybe you wouldn’t talk to him about your marriage. And then you’ve got these people you can really open up to about your marriage, but maybe you don’t talk to them about the Australian Open when it’s going on. So, foods provide different things. Like foods like salmon. Wild salmon, so powerful with anti-inflammatories, like Omega 3’s, and protein. But maybe not very much in fiber, for example, which is something else that you need. So, no food gives us all of these things.

But the antioxidants and the anti-inflammatories tend to be really heavy in the fruit and vegetable kingdom. That’s one of the reasons that one of the few pieces of conventional nutrition wisdom that I tend to agree with is to eat more fruits and vegetables. And you can do that even if you are on a low carb diet. So, the more vegetables, things like apples and onions are loaded with a very powerful anti-inflammatory called cretiton, it’s found in apples and it’s found in onions. Of course, you can get it in supplements as well.

So, the foods in the fruits and vegetable kingdom, high quality proteins, and of course, the number one with the bullet with the most anti-inflammatory supplements on earth, Fish Oil, Omega 3’s. These things go a tremendous way toward extending life.

More from the Big Idea for Wednesday, April 24 2013

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