"By the time you're eighty years old you've learned everything. You only have to remember it." So said George Burns, and he hit upon a tender point. Memory loss and cognitive decline is one of the most troubling aspects of growing old today.
We now have the medical expertise to extend the average lifespan to over 80, but for 15% of Canadians over the age of 65, Alzheimer’s disease will be a defining feature of their golden years. (Alzheimer Society Canada)
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia; it irreversibly destroys brain cells, affecting cognition, emotions, mood, behaviour and physical capabilities.
Topping the known risk factors are diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. It’s no wonder Alzheimer’s is so prevalent! Add to these smoking (thankfully on the decline), depression, cognitive and physical inactivity, and you can see why so many of us will experience old age through the lens of confusion.
The good news is, we can cut our risks by making smart choices about diet: specifically, eating a diet that’s rich in diverse, nutrient-dense plant foods. You can hear it from Dr. Michael Greger, M.D. in this video.
Looking to a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we find that yes, there are specific nutrients with real benefits for Alzheimer’s prevention.
As you may have noticed in Dr. Greger’s video, research has found that lutein and zeaxanthin play a special role in protecting cognitive health. As it turns out, these are the same nutrients that protect against macular degeneration - one of the leading causes of sight loss in Canada.
Here’s what we know from brain tissue examinations:
In a double-blind, placebo controlled trial in older women, involving lutein supplementation, alone or in combination with DHA (Omega-3), researchers found:
This is where our favourite superfood comes in.
Moringa leaves contain extraordinary amounts of lutein, which is great news: according to Dr. Monica Marcu, “(t)he more lutein, the better” (126). “100 grams of leaves contain more than 70 mg, while the recommended daily amount for the best protective antioxidant activity is 5-20 mg for an adult" (Marcu, 126).
How does this compare to other foods?
Kale is listed as one of the top food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin (Juicing the Rainbow), offering up approximately 40 mg per 100 gram serving. Moringa is nearly twice as rich in these powerful nutrients.
Note that most people will not consume 100 grams of fresh Moringa; it’s just not available in the produce section. When dehydrated, 100 grams of fresh leaves make 16 teaspoons of raw leaf powder. Most people will take one to two teaspoons daily, but even this small amount - easy to add to a glass of juice, water or a smoothie - more than delivers on your recommended daily intake of these brain-protective nutrients.
Moringa also contains high levels of zeatin, an anti-aging nutrient shown to protect against neurological deterioration associated with aging.
“Studies have shown that zeatin administered to mice can effectively protect them against memory and brain performance loss” (Marcu, 112). Zeatin shows promise as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, a specific form of dementia. It enhances the efficacy of a natural substance, acetylcholine, required for effective signaling between neurons. The slowing of these transmissions is characteristic of dementia, but “(z)eatin is one of the most powerful substances that increases the amount of acetylcholine in the brain by inhibiting its degradation by specific enzymes” (Marcu, 113).
Finally, Moringa caps it all off with boast-worthy levels of ALA Omega 3s.
In 10 grams or 2 teaspoons of Moringa leaf powder there are about .3 grams of ALA Omega-3s. By comparison, a 150 gram serving of salmon provides about .5 grams of EPA or DHA Omega-3. As you can see, by weight you need to eat about 10 times the salmon to get the same amount of Omega-3s as you obtain by consuming Moringa leaves.
So, there you have it: the ultimate brain-protective food! Moringa is a rich source of:
Making Moringa a part of your routine is one of the easiest habits you can adopt. Just whip up a SuperLeaf Moringa smoothie or add it to your cold beverage of choice. Done! You can rest assured that you’re giving your brain what it needs to stay sharp!
Easier than taking up chess, right? That one's a lost cause for me at least.
Alzheimer Society Canada. Dementia Numbers. http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Dementia-numbers
Alzheimer Society Canada. Alzheimer’s Disease. http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/Alzheimer-s-disease
Alzheimer Society Canada. Risk Factors. http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/Alzheimer-s-disease/Risk-factors
Greger, Michael, M.D. NutritionFacts.org. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-alzheimers-disease-with-plants/
Johnson, Elizabeth J. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2012/10/09/ajcn.112.034611.full.pdf
Marcu MG. Miracle Tree. SoundConcepts: American Fork, Utah, USA; 2013. PP. 103 - 116.
Williams, Andy. Juicing the Rainbow. http://juicingtherainbow.com/860/nutrients/lutein-and-zeaxanthin/