Friday, June 24, 2005

Avoiding Brain Drain

Need another reason to eat your vegetables?

Here's one - Dutch researchers at a meeting of Alzheimer's researchers, unveiled evidence on Monday that a diet higher in folate is important for a variety of health effects. It's already proven to reduce birth defects, and research suggests it helps ward off heart disease and strokes, and now might help slow the cognitive decline of aging.

In a Yahoo! News article, Study: Extra Folic Acid May Help Memory, the details of the study involving 818 cognitively healthy people ages 50 to 75, had participants divided into two groups - one swallowed either folic acid supplements or a dummy pill for three years while continuing to eat their normal diet.

At the end of the trial, in memory tests, the supplement users had scores comparable to people 5.5 years younger; in tests of cognitive speed, the folic acid helped users perform as well as people 1.9 years younger.

That's significant brain protection, with a supplement that's already well-known to be safe, said Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Marilyn Albert, who chairs the Alzheimer's Association's science advisory council.

Previous studies have shown that people with low folate levels in their blood are more at risk for both heart disease and diminished cognitive function.

While the study looked at the effects of using a supplement, Folate is found in high levels in many foods. The RDA in the United States is 400mcg per day and women of child-bearing years and/or who are pregnant are encouraged to take a supplement to ensure adequate intake to reduce the risk of spina-bifida. The Dutch study used an 800mcg supplement - this is the level that was investigated and found to slow the "brain drain."

Getting in folate from food has a distinct advantage over the use of supplements or enrichment in foods that are not typically high in folate - homocystine. Too many people are not including enough vegetables in their diet and have an elevated homocystine level, which causes inflammation which leads to health problems.

Of course you can supplement for folate if you need to, but if you're eating a diet rich with non-starchy vegetables and a good selection of fruits, legumes, whole grains and animal proteins like eggs, poultry and fish, you can reach an 800mcg a day level with food alone.

The best foods to get folate from are - surprise, surprise - favorites among those who follow a controlled-carb lifestyle!
  • Romaine or Cos Lettuce = 152mcg per 2 cups shredded
  • Spinach = 262mcg per 1 cup cooked
  • Asparagus = 262mcg per 1 cup cooked
  • Calf Liver = 860mcg per 4-ounce
  • Broccoli = 93.9mcg per 1 cup cooked
  • Peanuts = 87.5mcg per 1/4 cup
  • Sunflower seeds = 81.8mcg per 1/4 cup dried
  • Avocado = 90.4mcg per 1 cup
  • Cauliflower = 54.5mcg per 1 cup cooked
  • Brussel Sprouts = 93.6mcg per 1 cup boiled
  • Beans/Legumes = 200-300mcg per 1 cup cooked
  • Flax Seeds = 53.8mcg per 2-TBS
  • Strawberries = 25.5mcg per 1 cup raw
  • Raspberries = 31.9mcg per 1 cup raw
  • Tomatoes = 27mcg per 1 cup raw
  • Cucumber = 13.5mcg per 1 cup raw
  • Egg = 24mcg per large egg

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