Article
5 minute read

Nutrition for Neurological Health and The Sacrificial Antioxidant

Kim Haslam
By
Kim Haslam
Written on
March 3, 2022

Written By Kim Haslam / Edited by Louise Carder and Andrew Greenland

 

Few things are scarier to imagine than a declining mind. Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, are forecast to become a worldwide epidemic in the coming decades, and the numbers certainly look grim. Neurodegenerative diseases are already the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide, with the numbers of people living with dementia set to almost double every twenty years.

 

Though the statistics look pretty bleak, nutritional therapy and functional medicine offer increasingly hopeful therapeutic benefits to those suffering from these conditions.

 

Nutritional interventions are a key modulator when it comes to reducing vulnerability to neurological diseases, with the potential to have a dramatic effect both in terms of prevention and as the cornerstone of any treatment plan. They offer us an essential tool for any personalised clinical intervention that may act as an insurance policy in later life. Perhaps the most well-known peer reviewed intervention is the Bredesen Protocol, developed by Dr Dale Bredesen, MD. Practitioners can train in his Protocol to support clients to optimise their brain health to reduce / slow the effects of ageing.

Protecting The Brain

If interventions come soon enough, we can have a huge impact on the lives of our clients when it comes to healthy brain ageing. The choices we make in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s certainly set the stage for the negative changes that can lead to neuro-degeneration decades later, but it’s never too late to start making changes to support brain health.

As Functionally-minded practitioners, we are well-placed to understand that approaching cognitive decline with a strategy of multiple inputs is going to have the biggest impact and offer the most hopeful outcomes for our clients. As Dr. Perlmutter says, “there are many roads that lead to Rome” - and we, of course, want to send troops down as many of them as possible.

The Three Nutritional Pillars of Neurological Health

Diets that emphasise consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, and fibre are correlated with better cognition among those with and without cognitive impairments. A personalised dietary approach can be created from specific tests that support greater understanding of what a client might need. Dr Bredesen’s approach, which includes blood testing, categorises a client’s results into one of six sub-types; Inflammatory, Glycotoxicity, Trophic loss, Toxic, Vascular and Traumatic. The ReCode algorithm then produces a recommended plan of action.

 

More generally, there are three key areas that we can address with nutrition and lifestyle interventions to support brain health.

 

1. Optimise Blood Sugar Control.

One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, for example, is poor glucose utilisation in the brain. Blood sugar control can be optimised by:

  • Ensuring adequate protein intake (which is often too low in ageing populations anyway)
  • Reducing intake of sugar and limiting the empty calories of refined carbohydrates
  • Emphasising the importance of the often-overlooked lifestyle factors that affect insulin levels, including stress management, good quality sleep and the right kinds of exercise.

2. Reduce systemic inflammation.

Systemic inflammation, regardless of the source, will certainly affect the brain over time. This inflammation can arise from multiple sources, including:

  • Leaky gut and hidden food sensitivities
  • Chronic stress
  • Dental issues like gum disease
  • Environmental exposures

By honing in on those factors that are most relevant for your client, you can reduce their overall inflammatory burden.

 

3. Focus on neuro-protective nutrients.

Optimise the nutrients that are known to be neuro-protective, including:

  • Vitamin D
  • Antioxidants, both from dietary sources and by nutritionally supporting the production of endogenous antioxidants such as glutathione
  • Fatty acids - the fatty acid composition of neuronal cell membrane phospholipids reflects the dietary intake of these nutrients, so ensuring a good intake of cold water fatty fish, nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts represent a really good insurance policy against cognitive decline in later life.

Plasmalogens: The White Knight of Neurological Health (That Youve Probably Never Heard Of)

Fatty acids play a key structural role in the brain. One class of fatty acids that is particularly important when it comes to neurological health is the Plasmalogens. Plasmalogens are a type of phospholipid that are found abundantly in the cell membranes of the nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems. They boast an impressive array of biological benefits for neuro-protection, including prevention of neuroinflammation, improvement of cognitive function, and inhibition of neuronal cell death.


Plasmalogens are also antioxidants and have been shown to play a protective role against oxidative stress, especially in the brain and heart. They may function as a sort of ‘sacrificial antioxidant’ - sacrificing themselves to protect the cell, thus helping our cells survive in stressful conditions. When plasmalogen levels are low, cells die more often. Low levels of plasmalogens are often seen in chronic inflammatory disorders and restoring levels of plasmalogens may be a valuable tool to positively influence the inflammatory cascade in these conditions, as well as a method to improve cognitive function.


Conclusion

The old adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is particularly resonant for those of us who have spent any time up close with neurodegenerative disorders. Testing for plasmalogens is not only a great way of getting in early, but also an essential tool for creating interventions that meet our clients’ unique requirements.

 

To learn more about testing for plasmalogens, take a look at our previous webinar on the PlasmalogenPLUS™ Blood Test using this vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/682830617 , You can order the PlasmalogenPLUS™ Blood Test at PlasmalogenPLUS™ Blood Test (colabeu.com). To read more about age-associated plasmalogen deficiency, neurodegeneration, and what you can do to check your plasmalogen levels and restore them to healthy youthful levels, head over to Dr. Dayan Goodenowe – Dr. Dayan Goodenowe (drgoodenowe.com)