Varied plant-based diets appear to be beneficial to cognitive health and may even reduce depression and anxiety (see here, here, and here). While there are mental health benefits from the fatty acids in fish, there are also negative effects from arachidonic acid. An increasing rate of mental illness may be linked to genetic manipulation of animals destined for human consumption, resulting in a reduction of DHA in chicken. Plant-based DHA may offer the benefits without the contamination risks. The mercury in fish (such as tuna, especially certain brands) may damage the brain of infants, children, and adults (more than that in vaccinations). Natural toxins in fish can also pose a threat (even when seafood is properly cooked). There’s one toxin that even causes a form of amnesia
Green tea and sleeping sufficiently seem to minimize the risk of stroke. Green tea may also ease pain and nausea and beneficially alter brain wave activity. However, a single egg a day may contribute to a higher incidence of strokes. The good news is that a whole food plant-based diet can help prevent atherosclerosis. Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk for bleeding strokes (though it decreases the risk of the clotting strokes). Coffee may modestly decrease brain cancer risk, along with certain vegetables. Coffee may also decrease the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Cell phone use has been linked to brain tumors, but not as much as hot dog consumption.
Regular exercise may reverse cognitive decline. Caloric restriction also may improve memory. And while berries can help to prevent cognitive decline, adding milk inhibits the absorption of the phytonutrients. Those with a family history of neurodegenerative diseases should consider limiting their consumption of milk altogether. Hormones in milk have been linked to these degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease. Soy products have been shown to improve cognition in short-term trials, but not tofu preserved with formaldehyde. Vitamin D and B12 may also protect against cognitive decline, but homeopathy does not appear to be useful.
Drugs and toxic metals in meats can contribute to neurotoxicity. AGEs (glycotoxins) in animal-based foods may contribute to dementia. Copper has been found in meat (and supplements) and may contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease. Aluminum, added to cheese, has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Even iron has been linked to these neurodegenerative diseases. A banned pesticide, Dieldrin, can still be found in contaminated dairy products. Aspartame consumption has been linked to at least one brain disease.
Artificial colors have been shown to contribute to ADHD symptoms. Arsenic found in chicken has been linked to neurocognitive deficits in children. Licorice has been shown to be harmful, especially during pregnancy. Creatine supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals and are not recommended.
Plant-based foods may provide protection against inflammation and dementia in part due to a low level of aspirin naturally found throughout the plant kingdom. But blue green algae (see here and here) may be linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Spirulina may also contain harmful neurotoxins.
Toxoplasma is a brain parasite that can be transmitted through the consumption of undercooked lamb chops. Epilepsy can be caused by pork tapeworms taking up residence inside our brain. Also, essential tremor, a common neurological condition, has been linked to meat consumption.
Topic summary contributed by Wendy K. White.
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