NutritionFacts.org

cognition

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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Watch videos about cognition

  • Which Brand of Tuna Has the Most Mercury?
    Which Brand of Tuna Has the Most Mercury?
    In a survey of three national brands of tuna in the United States, most cans exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety level for human consumption.
  • Creatine Brain Fuel Supplementation
    Creatine Brain Fuel Supplementation
    Vegetarians appear to get more of a cognitive boost than meat-eaters from creatine supplementation.
  • What About the Caffeine?
    What About the Caffeine?
    Caffeine has positive cognitive and physiological effects at moderate doses.
  • Constructing a Cognitive Portfolio
    Constructing a Cognitive Portfolio
    Different fruits and vegetables appear to support different cognitive domains of the brain, so both variety and quantity are important.
  • Is Licorice Good For You?
    Is Licorice Good For You?
    The safe upper limit of licorice consumption and why pregnant women may be at particularly high risk.
  • Reversing Cognitive Decline
    Reversing Cognitive Decline
    Exercise shown to reverse mild cognitive impairment.
  • Dietary Theory of Alzheimer’s
    Dietary Theory of Alzheimer’s
    A provocative theory published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition attempts to explain the dramatic rise in Alzheimer's disease
  • Is Homeopathy Just Placebo?
    Is Homeopathy Just Placebo?
    A review of the best science on the usefulness of homeopathy to treat a variety of conditions.
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