A link has been established between diet and cognitive function. Some animal products contain aluminum, copper and arsenic that have been linked to Alzheimer’s and neuropathy. Plant foods, on the other hand, such as green leafy vegetables, blueberries, and soy beans, may help improve memory. Both coffee and tea (and the caffeine they contain) are linked to positive cognitive benefits, but should probably be consumed without milk because it can block phytonutrient absorption.

Supplement intake has been associated with cognition in both positive and negative ways. Iron supplements seem to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s (an update here), whereas vitamin B12 is essential for brain health. Creatine can boost cognitive functioning, but may be unsafe in supplement form. Homeopathy, however, seems to have no effect at all (beyond placebo).

Eating right is even more crucial for pregnant women. Numerous studies have shown that industrial pollutants and mercury found in fish (such as tuna) can impair the baby’s cognitive development. Licorice has also been shown to be particularly harmful to the developing child. On top of a healthy diet, the addition of DHA supplements may increase the baby’s problem solving ability and IQ. Raising the child on a plant-based diet has also been shown associated with increased intelligence.

In addition to choosing the right foods, there are cognitive benefits to limiting calories altogether, and of course, getting plenty of exercise (see here, here).

Topic summary contributed by Peter Huntley.
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