Monday, March 8, 2010

Top 10 brain foods

Dietitians will tell you all foods can fit into a balanced diet, but let's face it: Some foods are better than others, especially when it comes to feeding our brains

Here are 10 foods that boost nutrition, improve brain function and keep our memories sharp.

Eggs. Eggs have gotten a bad rap for being high in cholesterol, but they actually are an excellent source of high-quality protein and contain choline, which aids in brain cell development. Put eggs back on your menu; if you have high cholesterol, limit to four whole eggs per week. There is no restriction on egg whites and egg substitute.

Fish. A growing body of research is finding links between brain health and DHA, a form of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume two to three servings of fatty fish per week, which can include sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, salmon and tuna.

Seeds. Pumpkin, flax and sunflower seeds carry nutrients to boost your mood and brain power. These seeds can lower cholesterol, as well as add fiber and omega-3 fats, so sprinkle some on salads, cooked vegetables and cereal for extra crunch.

Berries. Blueberries are a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. In one study, aging lab animals that ate the equivalent of one-half to one cup of blueberries every day for two months performed better on tests of memory, coordination and balance than those that didn't eat the fruit. If you don't like blueberries, any type of berry is beneficial, so throw some in your cereal each morning.

Kale. Kale is an excellent source of the mineral manganese, which is important for nervous system functioning, energy production and defending against free radicals. Wash fresh kale well, saute with olive oil and minced garlic, or add it to lasagna, pizzas, omelets, soups and stew.

Water. Drinking adequate amounts of water can help our energy levels and skin, and aid in weight loss. Conversely, dehydration diminishes our response time, mood and ability to concentrate.

Tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, another powerful antioxidant. Cooked tomatoes have a greater amount of this nutrient, so include them in chili, soups and pasta sauces.

Sweet potatoes. The orange flesh is high in beta-carotene, which is another antioxidant that takes care of the damaging free radicals in our system. Toss peeled sweet potato wedges with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 400 degrees until tender. You also can steam chunks of peeled sweet potato until tender and mash with orange juice.

Nuts. Nuts are a key component of the Mediterranean diet, which researchers have found to aid in preventing cardiovascular disease, and lower our risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. Include a serving (one-quarter cup) of walnuts or almonds daily.

Tea. Researchers from China found that people who drink the most tea were 71 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. The polyphenols found in tea are thought to act as free radical scavengers that help brain function.

Jennifer Mikulich is a registered dietitian at Aspirus.

I've cut your leg to reach your brain

Siddhartha Wuppalapati in the new 3D brain lab at RPH

Siddhartha Wuppalapati in the new 3D brain lab at 
Brain surgery will be taking on a new dimension at Royal Preston Hospital as surgeons operate on patients via a cut in their leg.
A new 3D brain imaging lab will be unveiled by hospital chiefs in Preston and is hailed as the most advanced in the North West.

The £2m facility will be used for life-saving brain operations which only require a small cut in the leg rather than a craniotomy to open the skull.
The new lab will open today and also features a biplanar machine which creates real-time 3D images.
This will allow doctors to navigate a tiny tube called a catheter through a main artery in the leg and along blood vessels into the brain.
The catheter is used to insert miniature platinum coils to repair life-threatening burst aneurysms, retrieve blood clots on the brain and treat certain strokes.
The biplanar incorporates a CT scanner for more detailed images to be taken during a procedure.
The imagery is viewed by medical staff on a 56-inch flat screen monitor which sits in the centre of the procedure room.
Operations can last between three to four hours and scores of coils can be inserted at any one time.
The lab also has hi-tech advances to aid infection prevention including special non-touch sink taps and electric doors and hidden storage to ensure supplies are protected.
Siddhartha Wuppalapati, consultant neuroradiologist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is the lead for the service.
He said: "This is the most advanced brain coiling facility in the North West of England and one of only two in the UK which features 3D imaging with large monitor viewing technology.
"Brain coiling and embolization, which is a way to close blood vessels that are doing harm, are recently developed brain surgery techniques.
"The procedures involve threading a catheter from an artery in the leg to the brain.
"The treatment leads to significantly better long-term survival rates than major brain surgery and will save or improve the lives of around 100 patients each year."

'A lot of young people are affected by brain tumours'

 Helping others through difficult times: Julian and Caroline Walker know the pain of having a loved one diagnosed with a brain tumour. Their son was 17 when a tumour was found and now at 26, he’s leading an active and fulfilling life in Vancouver.

Click to EnlargeJulian and Caroline Walker were devastated when their 17-year-old son, David, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2001.
Click to Enlarge
"It was like being hit by a tonne of bricks," said Julian Walker.
The Walkers say their son exhibited some symptoms leading up to the diagnosis: David had experienced numbness and weight loss, and was involved in a couple of minor car accidents, leading his parents to believe something was wrong with his eyesight.
The Walkers' optometrist quickly realized something more serious was happening than a problem with David's vision.
"He told us, '(David) has pressure on his brain, pushing on his optic nerve,' " Julian said. "That same day, he was up at the Chalmers Hospital, where he had a CAT scan, which confirmed he had a brain tumour.
"He went to Saint John immediately and was operated on the next day."
David was up and about only a day after his operation, but during the next six months, he had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
The Walkers knew almost nothing about brain tumours prior to their son's diagnosis.
They educated themselves by speaking with David's doctors and through resources offered by the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
"The brain tumour foundation sets up support groups across the country," Caroline said. "But there weren't any in New Brunswick at that time.
"We did go to events called information days in Halifax, put on by the foundation. They bring in specialists who speak about all the latest research on brain tumours. We attended quite a few of those."
"Every tumour is different, so it's not like other cancers," said Julian. "You need a large information base to understand what's going on."
Since 2001, more resources have become available in the province. The foundation has set up a support group in Moncton and an event called the Spring Sprint is now held in Fredericton each year to raise awareness and funds for the organization.
Paul Mitchell, community relations officer for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, said Fredericton's Spring Sprint receives a great deal of support from the community.
Based on that response, Mitchell said, the foundation held a town hall meeting recently to determine whether there was an interest in starting a support group in Fredericton.
"The community has asked for support, so we've decided to set up this group," Mitchell said.
"Support groups are important because no one can really understand unless they've been through the same situation. It's a place where people can comfort one other, share the burden of the experience and empathize.
"It's not just for those who have been diagnosed, but for their whole family to share their experiences and learn more."
Caroline will be the volunteer convener for the Fredericton support group. She'll be joined by Brenda Garnett, an employee at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation's foundation office, who will be the volunteer facilitator.
With 10,000 people in Canada diagnosed with brain tumours each year, Caroline said she expects the Fredericton support group will make a difference in the lives of a number of brain tumour patients and their families.
"A lot of young people are affected by brain tumours," she said. "The support group will enable people to come and tell their stories and share their experiences. It will also help direct people to other resources."
Today, David is 26 and lives an active life in Vancouver. He is recovering from a recent brain operation.
His parents say David never lets his health problems stop him from having a positive attitude.
"He doesn't stress too much," Julian said. "(David) has the attitude that you go down the track and don't waste time looking behind you. I think he's taught us a lot."
The Fredericton brain tumour support group will hold its first meeting Tuesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at
the Stan Cassidy centre in Room 1113-B. Subsequent meetings will be held on the second Tuesday of each month.
For more information about this year's Spring Sprint and the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, visit

New kind of Prion disease impairing brain arteries apparently identified

National Institute Of HealthPrion diseases are said to be from a family of progressive conditions that may affect the nervous system in humans and animals. National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists are examining how prion diseases may impair the brain. They have supposedly noted a type of disease in mice that may not cause the sponge-like brain deterioration usually observed in prion diseases. Instead, it appears to look like a kind of human Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral amyloid angiopathy that impairs brain arteries.
The study outcomes are said to be similar to discoveries from two recently accounted human cases of the prion disease Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS). This finding seems to stand for a new system of prion disease brain damage.

The function of a particular cell anchor for prion protein is said to be the core of the NIAID study. Standard prion protein apparently utilizes a particular molecule, glycophosphoinositol (GPI), to strap on to host cells in the brain and other organs. In their study, the NIAID experts genetically eliminated the GPI anchor from study mice, thereby averting the prion protein from attaching to cells and thus facilitating it to diffuse generously in the fluid outside the cells.

The study authors subsequently exposed those mice to contagious scrapie and monitored them for around 500 days to observe if they became sick. The experts recorded signals usual of prion disease counting weight loss, lack of grooming, gait abnormalities and inactivity. But when they checked the brain tissue, they did not view the sponge-like holes in and around nerve cells characteristic of prion disease. Instead, the brains seem to encompass huge buildups of prion protein plaques trapped outside blood vessels in a disease process called cerebral amyloid angiopathy, which apparently impairs arteries, veins and capillaries in the brain. Moreover, the standard pathway by which fluid drains from the brain is said to be obstructed.

Study author Bruce Chesebro, M.D., chief of the Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories apparently signifies that prion diseases may be split into two groups: those with plaques that damage brain blood vessels and those devoid of plaques that may result in the sponge-like impairment to nerve cells. Dr. Chesebro is of the opinion that the attendance or absence of the prion protein anchor could verify which type of disease develops.

The new mouse model utilized in the study and the two new human GSS cases, which also do not encompass the standard prion protein cell anchor, are claimed to be the first to encompass that in prion diseases, the plaque-associated damage to blood vessels may take place without the sponge-like impairment to the brain. If scientists may discover an inhibitor for the new kind of prion disease, they may also use the same inhibitor to treat similar kinds of damage in Alzheimer’s disease.

'Brain Washing' Treatment Saves Babies

A new treatment known as 'brain washing' could dramatically reduce disability in newborn babies.

The process involves removing toxic fluid potentially harmful to infants born early and suffering from large brain haemorrhages.
The technique, pioneered by doctors in Bristol, reduces the pressure put on the brain and for the first time has been shown to benefit newborn babies suffering from the condition.
Professor Andrew Whitelaw and paediatric neurosurgeon Ian Pople have researched the condition, known as hydrocephalus, for the last 20 years.

This is the first time that any treatment anywhere in the world has been shown to benefit these very vulnerable babies.
Two tubes are inserted into the ventricles in the brain of a premature baby suffering from a large haemorrhage and expanded ventricles.
One tube continuously drains out fluid while the other tube lets clear fluid flow in. The pressure in the brain is measured continuously and more fluid is drained out than flowed in so the brain slowly decompresses.
When the fluid draining out has cleared, the two tubes are removed. The whole procedure takes about three days.
The trials have been published online in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Mr Pople said: "This is the first time that any treatment anywhere in the world has been shown to benefit these very vulnerable babies.
"It is hoped that in the very near future (this treatment) will be set up as a service at Southmead Hospital in Bristol."