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Food for Thought: Nutrition and the Brain

© Lauri M. Aesoph ND

Others are more convinced that this metal is hurting us. One investigator went as far as to recommend that we all limit our aluminum exposure (5). An English study has even offered a biochemical reason why the Alzheimer-aluminum connection is at times hazy. It revealed that Alzheimer patients had more free floating aluminum in their blood than normal people. Unbound aluminum can move toward the brain and cause damage (7).

A poor diet may exaggerate the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Researchers from Tufts University argue that mild vitamin deficiencies are partly responsible for the diminishing mental capacity of many elderly people. Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are most likely to be low since older individuals have less stomach acid. Acid is required to absorb these vitamins (8).

Schizophrenia and Nutrition
Schizophrenia, a group of mental disorders characterized by social withdrawal, distorted thinking, and bizarre behavior, is difficult to treat. Antipsychotic drugs are usually used to control this condition. However, some doctors are using a different approach.

Orthomolecular psychiatrists have been prescribing large doses of specific vitamins such as niacin to treat schizophrenia and other mental health disorders for a couple of decades (9). Although nutritional therapies help many schizophrenic patients, this complex disorder appears to be affected by other lifestyle factors as well.

Schizophrenia has been called a disease of civilization because as countries become more industrialized, schizophrenia increases. Five years ago Harold Foster, PhD looked for a geographical link to this condition. He discovered that regions with low-selenium soil and less sunshine had more schizophrenics. Some scientists think that a prostaglandin deficiency may be one cause of schizophrenia. Selenium is required for some prostaglandin synthesis. Sunlight gives us vitamin D, another nutrient that may be lacking in schizophrenics.

Areas where industry, road salt use, and toxic waste sites are prevalent--and thus have high levels of pollutants--also have higher incidences of schizophrenia. Living in an industrialized society usually means eating more processed and refined foods, and spending less time outside. All of these factors affect both our physical and mental health (10).

Earth House is an inpatient facility in East Millstone, New Jersey that treats schizophrenia and other mental illnesses using several natural therapies. They assess patients for biochemical imbalances and then treat them with orthomolecular medicine, exercise, counseling, and other methods.

Boron
Until six years ago, boron was considered a relatively obscure mineral. Today it is not only known for its role in building stronger bones, but has been shown to affect brain function as well. In 1989 at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, psychologist James Penland began investigating how a low boron diet influences brain waves. He put 15 healthy women and men on a restrictive boron diet for nine weeks. Using an electroencephalograph (EEG) to measure their brain activity, Penland found that when his subjects ate less boron they were less alert.

When volunteers for this study were interviewed, they said they didn't feel any different when they were deprived of boron. However, EEG readings showed that alpha waves, prominent during relaxation, were decreased and delta waves, seen during sleep, were higher. Subjects also performed poorly on mental exercises such as counting and computer tasks (11,12).

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