By Liam H May 30, 2019
How to produce more brain cells. The content of this article is based upon the book titled the Neurogenesis Diet and Lifestyle, authored by Brant Cortright.
The book summarizes our current knowledge about how we can influence our brains neurogenesis, which is the production of new neurons. It was previously believed that we stopped creating new brain cells once we became adults.
Science has proven this to be false and coined the term brain plasticity. The brain is flexible, everything we experience is constantly changing and shaping our brains to some degree. The hippocampus might sound like it’s part of a college for hippos, but it’s actually an important part of the brain, responsible for learning and retaining new knowledge.
Certain factors can have a big impact on the activity and brain mass of your hippocampus, and the size of it is directly related to the level of neurogenesis. You can increase your rate of neurogenesis at any age, and in the reference studies it was possible to increase it by up to 500 percent. So, how can we increase our production of new brain cells?
The book categorizes these things in five areas: diet, body, heart, mind, and spirit. Let’s take a closer look at each of these, starting with the diet. The four most powerful dietary neurogenesis factors are blueberries, omega-3 fatty acids ALA, DHA, and EPA, which are found in fish or krill oil. By the way, if you’re vegan you should look into supplementing with algae, because flaxseed oil is not adequate. Next up is epigallatecatechin gallate, or EGCG for short, which is a powerful polyphenols found in green tea. However, chronic caffeine intake is detrimental to neurogenesis, so the author recommends taking decaffeinated extract supplements. And lastly, curcumin, a compound found in turmeric.
Other food compounds and supplements that stimulate neurogenesis include quercetin, vitamin e, grapeseed extract, ginseng root, ginkgo biloba, goji berries, rhodiola rosea root, and lotus root. Let’s move on to the body category. Exercise can massively increase your neurogenesis, specifically exercise that increases your heart rate, for example high intensity interval training.
Other things include sex, proper sleep, music, silence, sounds of nature, and simply being in nature, and lastly novelty and new sensory experiences. The heart category is about emotions. Feeling good, experiencing joy, love, interest, excitement, essentially positive emotions. Of course nobody feels these things all the time, but optimally you should be experiencing these things often. Relationships are huge influencers. Positive relationships breed neurogenesis, while negative ones that cause stress, anger, or anxiety, decrease neurogenesis.
Feeling love increases neurogenesis by the means of oxytocin, the hormone associated with love and physical contact. When it comes to the mind we have learning, reading, writing, problem solving, complex work that involves using cognitive abilities, discussing ideas, musical training, and also mentioned in the book was that there seems to be a very strong link between how much you use your mind early during your life and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s later in life. For example, nuns that were teachers had much lower chances of developing Alzheimer’s than nuns that didn’t teach.
This is called cognitive reserve. In the spirit category we find mindfulness meditation, where you pay attention to your breathing, and compassion meditation, which involves wishing wellness to others. Prayer can also have a similar effect to compassion meditation.
These are: chronically elevated blood sugar levels, high amounts of carbohydrates, sugar, overeating, inflammatory foods such as fried foods, cooking oils, and factory farmed meat, eggs, and dairy. Chronic caffeine intake, smoking, alcohol, obesity, stress, despair lack of engagement, depression. Blows to the head can be devastating to the brain. In fact a single concussion doubles a person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s later in life.
Chemical and environmental pollution also play a role, for example mercury which is found in many fish, is the second most neurotoxic substance in the world. And lastly, deprivation of sensory stimulation or emotional nourishment, basically living a boring life, not experiencing interesting things, never doing anything new and living every day exactly the same. And by the way, excessive TV is also linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s.