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  • Carolina M. Reid

One Way Your Diet Affects your Brain

At Whole Mind we do not understand why 60-70% of American's can barely survive the Standard American Diet and this is allowed not only to go on today, but to get worse.  Today, 67% of people have lifestyle related ailments. Obesity alone is responsible for 80% of high blood pressure cases, 65% of high blood pressure, 45% of cancer cases and even 30% of infertility cases. We are not supposed to talk about it. It feels like fat-shaming. It's not shaming. People adopt their habits for a set of perfectly good reasons. They are surrounded by people who have the same  habits, they are surrounded by stores, advertisements, deli's and behaviors made acceptable by an entire society that is telling them this is totally aOK.

This is not a time for shame. It's a time for finding solutions and moving forward.  It's nobody's fault. Industry was looking to make money and consumers were were looking for faster, crave-able, cheaper food, with longer shelf life. None of this is great for mind or body. There was no "nanny state" to stop them.   

Obesity is simply a symptom of the standard American diet. Even when people eat well, they eat too much--we have simply got our national set point too high and we gobble down a lot of food really fast compared to most cultures. So then obesity causes a raft of serious illnesses..

One statistic that is not on the above chart but is also related is that about 34% of all Americans will get Alzheimers dementia. So they will die not knowing where they are or who they are, or leaving this world with a clear thought to share with their loved ones. 

This is what is happening to your brain on the standard American diet (S.A.D). This is the catch-all phrase for a diet that is generally high in carbohydrates, fried foods, processed vegetable oils, and has a high quantity of dairy that is entirely cow's milk based, red meats, lots of sugars from lots of sources (not just desserts but also ketchup and sweet and sour sauces included, plus sugary yogurts), packaged foods, white breads, with no to few fresh fruits or vegetables, much of which was at some point in its lifecycle packaged. 

This person's brain on the S.A.D. is already showing signs of the onset of dementia. She is 50 years old. You can see gaps where the brain is shrinking and witness shrinkage in the hippocampus, the area where we store new memories. So although only 50, this subject is most likely on her way to Alzheimers.  She does not have any symptoms and is "cognitively normal." This MRI is from this study on diet alone and is controlled for other factors . 

To the right is the brain scan of a person two years older than the one above who adheres to a mediterranean diet. This consists mainly of whole grain, fish, nuts, vegetables and healthy oils rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (like olive oils, coconut oils).  There are few packages or processed foods if any in her diet and no or very rare occasions of processed or refined sugar. There is no artificial sweetener either. In this case, the brain shows no signs of the kind of deterioration and formation of cavities due to brain shrinkage. By it's nature this diet excludes packaged foods and most cow's milk dairy but leans towards goat cheeses and in sparse quantities.

This study did not look at food sources. The quality of food you eat, where it comes from, what chemicals it is grown in the presence of, what soil, and how far it travels all matter. Because these things have an impact on the nutrients and they make their way into your brain and ultimately determine which of these two images the inside of your head will look like.  

In the above study of 52 people, all of them lived in or near Manhattan in New York City, and 70% of them were women. They ranged in age from 42 to 66 and were comparable in a number of other genetic and biological factors that were controlled in the experiment. Across the board, those who favored the mediterranean diet had thicker, healthier brain tissue. 

There are many more studies we have read, and more things that we can teach you here at WholeMind. The bottom line is diet matters. Changing it will help, a lot. But you need to do more to reverse the impact of a long period of poor choices.

The reality is that most of us have been eating the standard American diet for a long time or we have gone through slumps of poor choices in health we'd rather erase. The insidious things bout the S.A.D. is that eating that way weakens our self control for the reasons you see in the scans, because it weakens our brains and therefore our willpower to resist the barrage of temptation. So the more you eat that way, the more you want to keep eating the way. 

The good news is there are many things you can do to reverse the cycle and reboot your brain. And as these strengthen so does your will to do better for yourself. .