Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dr. Barnard Speaks in Cleveland. My Notes and Impressions.

On April 24, 2013 I went to John Carrol University in University Heights, Ohio to hear a lecture on the subject of Alzheimers by Dr. Neal Barnard. This was going to be my second time hearing Dr. Barnard in person, and to tell you the truth, I considered blowing it off.

I thought about how busy I was that night, I was leaving on a road trip the next morning and I hadn't even started packing yet! Plant-based eating--don't I know this already? Could I really learn anything new? I was pretty skeptical, but since my friend Felice wanted to go, that was reason enough to make the effort.

And boy, was I wrong.

Dr. Barnard started out the talk asking everyone in the audience to think about what matters most to us. Our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends. Now begin to imagine what it would be like if our connection to those very people was GONE.

There is almost nothing worse, in my opinion.

Alzheimer's is devastating. I imagine that everyone reading HGK knows at least someone, possibly many people, who are suffering from this tragic disease. Perhaps it is someone very close to you, and for that, my heart really goes out to you. Personally, I experience a lot of memory lapses. I'm 42 and I wonder if these memory lapses are a sign of things to come.

Well, if we make it to age 85, a full 50% of us will suffer from Alzheimer's. It's a full blown epidemic. It starts out as some mental lapses (or as my friend Susie calls it, "Somethimers"). Next it progresses to a state that Dr. Barnard calls "Mild Cognitive Impairment," that place where you know that your memory just isn't that good anymore. And finally, the place where learning and remembering is just not happening.

Is it genetic? Well, yes, there are genetic predispositions to Alzheimer's, but the good news is that genes are not our destiny. Our diet turns our genes on and off, so to speak, so pay attention to your diet and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's goes way, way down.

Based on the scientific studies that have been done, Dr. Barnard shared with us many tips for avoiding Alzheimer's:
  • Watch that saturated fat and also those trans fats. The more you eat of them, the higher your risk of Alzheimer's. We all know where saturated and trans fats are hiding--animal products and processed foods. Why does bad fat hurt the brain? It increases the deposits of plaque in the brain, just like it does in your arteries causing heart disease. That plaque (beta amyloid plaque) shouldn't be there--either in the brain or the heart. BTW, don't think you are doing yourself any favors eating fish. Seventy percent (yes, 70%) of the fat in fish is NOT Omega 3 (the good fat), it's either the bad fat or it's totally unnecessary. Just get your Omega 3 from plant based sources like Flaxmeal or Chia seed and you won't get the really bad fat with the good stuff.
  • Watch the iron and the copper, those minerals show up in the brain of people with Alzheimer's. Too much red meat, copper leaching out from copper pipes, or the overuse of cast iron pans. A little iron is good, but too much is just bad.
  • Watch the aluminum, it destroys the brain. Where does it come from? Aluminum in drinking water, aluminum pots and pans, Iodized salt, baking powder (not the aluminum free kind) and antiperspirants (not deodorants). I don't know about you, but I am switching to parchment paper for all of my baking and roasting needs.
Now what about the good news? Can we protect ourselves from developing Alzheimer's? It turns out our actions and behaviors can go a long way in preventing Alzheimer's.
  • Consume Vitamin E, and lots of it, because it knock out free radicals. Foods like broccoli, spinach, mango, avocado, walnuts and seeds. Eat read food, don't think that taking a Vitamin E pill has the same benefits. Why? Because there are several biologically active forms of Vitamin E and those forms are present in a variety of real food. Pills provide one form.
  • Consume Vitamin b6 in foods like bananas and beans.
  • Take a B12 supplement.
  • Consume Folate in things like greens and asparagus. Studies show that increased consumption of Vitamin B6, B12 and Folate improve memory and slow down atrophy.
  • Eat foods that are deep blue, red and purple. Things like grapes, blueberries and blackberries with help with learning, recall and brain function.
  • Consume Lycopene from foods like tomatoes, watermelon, carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Exercise. It reverses brain shrinkage and improves memory. Focus on your pulse, not the distance you go or the time you spend doing it. You just need to get your heart pumping! Just forty minutes three times per week is enough to reverse brain loss.
  • Sleep. Sleep deprivation ruins our memory. Make sure you are getting enough.
  • Stimulate your brain, particularly the language center of your brain. Check out for adult brain games that prevent memory loss.
  • Watch those prescription meds! Lots of medications are known to effect memory, such as anxiety medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, sleep aids, cholesterol lowering drugs and acid blockers.
A few other great points made by Dr. Barnard:
  • Move to a plant based diet if you haven't already. Do a three week test drive. You will be shocked at how much your taste buds change in a short time. If you don't know where to start, just start by checking out the plant based possibilities. Make a list of foods that you want to try and start eating those foods.
  • About slip-ups on the "diet," he made an important comment, "This is not morality, it's plain old biology." I took that to mean forgive yourself your slips and just move on immediately!
  • More important than even our own health is the future for our children. This is really about our kids. 
Having three young kids of my own, I really own this last idea. It's up to each and every one of us to fix this for future generations, and it starts with us educating ourselves, making way better choices and turning this ship around.

Want to check out this new book yourself? Here's a link:

Is memory loss a concern for you? Do you worry about Alzheimer's for yourself or any of your loved ones? Did Dr. Barnard's suggestions make any impact on you? To leave a comment/view the comments, please click on the title of this post (the orange text above).
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