Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vitamins that boost brain power

There is growing evidence that certain vitamins may help boost brainpower and memory, and you don't need mega doses.

The B vitamins are vital to normal brain and nerve functions. But the B vitamin, folate - found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and other foods - has earned special attention, according to Healthy Years, a publication of UCLA School of Medicine. Studies have shown that changes in mood and mental function, including depression and dementia in the elderly, occur during folate deficiency. Cognitive decline and some forms of dementia including Alzheimer's disease are associated with lower folate levels.

In addition, an adequate intake of antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) and anti-inflammatory nutrients (like omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) is an essential part of the defence system against brain ageing. Data suggest a link between poor intake of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, and a greater-than-expected incidence of late-onset dementia.

Antioxidants appear to have a role in neuroprotection and some studies have shown a link between the antioxidants vitamins C and E and improved cognitive function and slowed progression of Alzheimer's disease. However, researchers say the evidence is not strong enough to suggest that vitamin C supplementation prevents Alzheimer's.

The best advice? Focus on the dinner plate - eat a well-balanced diet and, if necessary, supplement with a daily multivitamin. This means a diet with regular helpings of fish plus a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. All of those are sources of nutrients helpful for brain functioning, such as folate, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.

— UCLA Healthy Years

Refrigerated oils

Q: Do vegetable oils need to be refrigerated?

A: Not for safety reasons, but refrigerated oils last longer. Natural antioxidants in vegetable oils help fight spoilage. Yet still, all oils eventually turn rancid developing an 'off smell' and taste. How soon this happens depends on the type of oil, how it was processed, and the way it is stored. While some oils have a shelf life of one or more years under normal conditions, natural or unrefined oils last only about four to six months.

To keep oil fresh longer, keep it away from heat, light and air. Seal tightly. Buy only what you will use within a few months. If you buy a larger size, you might want to refrigerate it. Chilled oils may form harmless crystals, which clear when they warm to room temperature. Flaxseed, sesame and walnut oils have a short shelf life, so keep them refrigerated.

— UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, September 2010

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian @ Creators Syndicate website at