Contributed by: Stella, @dirtygirlscleaneats
Stella is the Chief Value Officer for SwitchGrocery and you can follow her on Instagram for amazing paleo and keto friendly and positivity and life tips!
I have always had a crush on the brain. It is my absolute favorite organ. So much so that during graduate school, I almost added a neuroscience specialization, but then decided that I should probably get out of school at some point...
Beyond an academic and research curiosity, I have also had first-hand, personal experience about how important, yet delicate this incredibly complex organ is. Just about the time I turned 30, I was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called idiopathic intracranial hypertension, for which I underwent brain surgery. The goal of surgery was to help alleviate symptoms, as this is a chronic illness without a cure. This experience, coupled with my research background, is what brought me to adopt a ketogenic lifestyle for brain health. And although I only represent a small sample of one, the results I have experienced have convinced me how much better my brain feels fueled by fat.
While I was reading relevant research pertaining to my own condition and to brain health in general, I kept coming across articles suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, could be considered as a “Type 3 Diabetes.” This both peaked my curiosity and blew my mind – what a paradigm shift to think of a neurodegenerative condition as having some association with insulin resistance, and therefore FOOD. And if this is the case, then the bigger picture is that perhaps dementia can be prevented to some degree, or at least that individuals do have some agency when it comes to symptom management. Like I said, mind blown!
Recently, an episode on The Ultimate Health Podcast featured Dr.Jesse Chapman and Marni Wasserman interviewing Max Lugavere, a health and science journalist and filmmaker, on this very subject (http://ultimatehealthpodcast.com/max-lugavere/). If you have not listened to this episode as of yet, I STRONGLY recommend you do so. The overall message is that what you eat and what you do can not only promote, but also impact your brain health. And I can first hand vouch that there is nothing more important or more vital than a healthy brain. The book he talks about can be found here: https://www.geniusfoodsbook.com/
TOP 5 TAKEAWAYS
In case you cannot stop everything you are doing this very second and listen to the podcast (although that sounds like a pretty good plan), here are the five major points and highlights that I personally took away from the episode. But when you CAN drop everything, you are going to want to listen to this episode in full. Not only does it address such an important topic that is relevant to us all, but Max’s ability to translate complex and dense knowledge into a simple and digestible form is absolutely remarkable!
TAKEAWAY 1. The Current State Of Dementia : “I Just Felt So Helpless and Hopeless”
- Dementia is a chronic and persistent disorder of the brain in which reasoning, memory, and personality can be impaired.
- Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
- Max personally witnessed his mother begin to experience dementia-related symptoms and ultimately be diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition.
- Max felt “unsettled” by the way the medical and diagnostic system operated.
- He also felt discouraged by the current treatment model, which mainly focuses on symptom management through prescription medication, with limited efficacy.
- He therefore felt the need to focus on the brain as a whole: focusing on specific diagnostic labelling is a distractor and of very little use to everyday functioning.
TAKEAWAY 2. Shifting Our Thinking: Food As Prevention And Treatment
- Alzheimer’s and prevention - two words that have only recently began to be able to coexist in medical and research discourse.
- Linking food not only to brain health, but to complex conditions such as dementia is a novel and outside the box approach.
- Physicians know very little when it comes to nutrition and food.
- Dietary recommendations of the past decades have not been evidence-based, meaning not based on rigorous studies and research.
- As a nutrition and fitness enthusiast, Max had a hunch that diet and lifestyle are intricately related to neurological decline.
- As he began exploring this potential relationship, he discovered current research and studies highlighting this very link between diet and brain health.
- These findings motivated Max to work on “Bread Head”, a documentary exploring the relationship between brain health, diet, and lifestyle.
- The state of current research is still new, and long term studies are not there yet; however promising findings and links are being made every day.
TAKEAWAY 3. You Can Master Your “Cognitive Destiny”
- Alzheimer’s begins in the brain, decades before first symptoms appear.
- Individuals who live to the age of 85 have a 50% chance of developing some form of dementia - those are the same odds as that of flipping a coin!
- Two thirds of Alzheimer patients are women.
- Current available pharmaceutical treatment has limited efficacy, meaning that medications do not really work.
- Despite this, you CAN take steps toward the prevention, management, and treatment of not only dementia and neurological conditions, but also of your overall brain health.
- In other words, you are not disempowered - you can “pave the road to your cognitive destiny” by engaging in choices that promote cognitive health.
- As a result, Max developed the “Genius Food Plan,” a diet that promotes ultimate cognition and brain health.
- The Genius Food Plan can be considered a variation of the ketogenic diet.
- Why a keto inspired plan?
- Your brain is the most metabolically hungry organ of your body.
- The brain uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) as cellular energy; ATP is usually created out of glucose.
- However, in Alzheimer's, the brain's ability to create ATP from glucose is compromised - less ATP means less brain energy or fuel.
- BUT, ATP can be created from another source - ketones! A ketogenic diet can therefore promote the continued production of ATP and brain energy through ketones, and bypasses the need for glucose.
TAKEAWAY 4. Genius Food Plan: “How To Live And Eat In A Way That Nourishes The Brain As A Whole”
- Max discusses some of the components of the Genius Food Plan, which can be found in his new book, “Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life.”
- Eat all of the fats! Okay, okay, not all…
- Healthy fats are beneficial, but it is not necessary to “chase” fats, as a nutrient.
- Rather, opt for a low carb, high fat diet, in which the fat is “by necessity” - meaning that fat sources are not the result of purposely adding extra fat to your diet, but rather as fat being part of the healthy, whole foods you are eating.
- For example, fat from adding butter to coffee versus fat from a piece of grass-fed steak; the added butter is a “chased” fat, whereas the fat from the meat is a whole foods fat.
- The Genius Food Plan is not a high “added oil” diet, except for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which is the one that has the most robust data supporting its association with longevity and cognitive function.
- Do not chase polyunsaturated fats either, except for adding a high quality fish oil to your day.
- Max’s favorite way of adding fat to diet? A daily fatty salad! Think greens, veggies (embrace the rainbow!),eggs, and EVOO.
- Nay list of added fats: canola, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed.
- Yay list of added fats: EVOO, avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, ghee, and grass-fed butter.
- Should you strive for a continuous state of ketosis?
- There is no evolutionary advantage to a chronic state of ketosis.
- Max therefore suggests that it is not required nor necessary to be in chronic ketosis.
- Some carbohydrates can be useful, particularly as a performance-enhancing tool, such as post workout.
- Good quality dark chocolate as part of your Genius Foods!
- colate is a top source of magnesium.
- Max recommends one bar a week, preferably 85% or higher cacao content, dairy free, organic, and fair-trade.
- Important to look at ingredient list and avoid chocolate processed with alkaline or dutch processed, which degrades polyphenol content and makes the chocolate less nutrient-dense.
- Max speaks about his “how to” guide on purchasing chocolate, which you can find here
TAKEAWAY 5. The Role Of Lifestyle Factors In Cognitive Health
- Movement as important as diet: “When we are stagnant, our brains suffer.”
- Try to incorporate movement throughout your day: both aerobic and high intensity exercise are important.
- Movement and building muscle helps with regaining insulin sensitivity, as well as the ability to dispose glucose and to produce mitochondria in the brain.
- “Good sleep is a precondition to a healthy lifestyle.”
- Sleep is a master hormonal regulator.
- Sleep purifies your brain: a good night’s sleep cleans the toxin buildup in the brain.
- Being underslept makes dietary changes even harder to accomplish! Max suggests to master your sleep first, which will then make implementing dietary changes easier.
WHERE TO GET MORE
More Max Lugavere
Want to know more about promoting brain health? I bet you do! Here are some ways to get more information and to learn more about Max and his work:
Be sure to check out Max’s new book “Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life” (which at the time of writing this, is the #1 Neuroscience Bestseller on Amazon and a New York Times Bestseller!)
Instagram (@maxlugavere). His “Healthy Swaps” and infographics are the absolute best!
YouTube (Max Lugavere)
- Last but not least, Max has a great personal website, full off tons of awesome information, articles, updates, and more!
More The Ultimate Health Podcast and Marni Wasserman
- Enjoyed the podcast and craving more? Marni and Jesse (who are fellow Canadians!) interview the best of the health and wellness world on their weekly show. Click here for more information on the Ultimate Health Podcast:
- Marni Wasserman is a recipe creator and natural food chef dedicated to inspiring and helping others on their wellness journeys. And her passion is just contagious! Visit Marni's blog for recipes, lifestyle tips, valuable wellness information, and so much more! SwitchGrocery was also featured on Marni's Grain Free Challenge.
Disclosures from SwitchGrocery:
- We have not received any compensation from Max Lugavere for this post! We liked his awesome interview!
- We have been genuine fans of The Ultimate Health Podcast for the past two years and are currently working to finalize a partnership with them! They did not ask us to feature this particular podcast - we feel like this is an important resource for brain health and wanted to highlight it for you!
- SwitchGrocery is an online retail store for food products and this blog under SwitchDiaries is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment nor is it to be construed as such. Information is provided without any representations or warranties of any kind. Please consult a qualified physician for medical advice, and always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your health and nutrition program.