With more and more Baby Boomers settling into retirement, I am seeing an increasing number of patients concerned about keeping their brains healthy as they age. So I’m dedicating two articles in this newsletter to brain health.
In the other article, I’ll tell you about a borderline miraculous brain health supplement that’s finally getting its due.
But this one is dedicated to one the fundamentals of keeping your brain running at full speed even as your peers are starting to struggle with memory loss, confusion, or even dementia. And it’s an aspect that tends to get short shrift where Alzheimer’s is concerned.
As with most areas of health, brain health depends on a smart diet, regulated blood sugar, and a healthy weight.
Creeping weight puts you on the fast track to cognitive decline
If it seems like I’m always coming back to these three issues, it’s because I am. And with good reason.
The fact is, poor diet, diabetes, and obesity lead you down the path to countless health issues and complications that will make your life more difficult. And brain health is no exception.
That’s why I’ve spent decades researching diet and nutrition — to find proven, natural ways to maintain a healthy weight, curb inflammation, and keep blood sugar steady. The diet programs I have developed and shared with you — whether it’s the Hamptons Diet or my latest, the A-List Diet — are designed with your health in mind. They are programs you can use at every stage in life, and they allow you to eat many delicious foods that encourage weight loss and — most importantly — weight maintenance.
Because as I said, keeping those extra pounds off is essential in preventing so many diseases and health problems. Being overweight or obese has been linked to multiple metabolic effects, including insulin resistance, poor blood sugar control, and inflammation. And from there it cascades into an endless array of issues.
As I’ve discussed many times, long-term type 2 diabetics have an increased health risk in multiple organs throughout the body. Diabetes-related complications in the brain may accelerate cognitive dysfunction, and even increase the risk of dementia.
And according to new research, keeping your weight in check is especially important for diabetics. Because overweight and obese people who do develop type 2 diabetes suffer more severe and progressive brain abnormalities — and worsened cognition — compared to people who maintain a healthy weight.
Time is of the essence
The study found that diabetes itself was part of the problem. The people with diabetes had significantly thinner gray matter in several areas of the brain than people without diabetes. But weight played an independent role as well.
Even among diabetics, the people who were overweight had more brain thinning than those who were normal weight.
The temporal lobe of the brain was particularly vulnerable to changes in this study. That’s important because deterioration in the temporal lobe is known to be one of the first brain changes involved in Alzheimer’s disease.
So — if you have diabetes, now is the time to take action. Time is of the essence: The researchers discovered that the longer a person had diabetes, the more brain changes there were.
In other words, the sooner you take control of this disease — and your weight — the better your chances of preserving your brain structure and cognitive abilities long into your golden years.
Diet and brain preservation
Of course, the first step in maintaining healthy weight and keeping blood sugar levels in check is to change how you eat.
One of the most well-studied diets — and the one that’s at the basis of the Hamptons Diet and the A-List Diet — is the Mediterranean diet.
Now, you’ve probably heard a lot about the Mediterranean diet over the years. But if you’re confused about what it really means, you’re not alone. That’s because different sources describe it differently. But, in general, it refers to a whole-foods diet with lots of vegetables, healthy fats, fish, and some red meat and poultry.
Pay close attention to what isn’t on that list: Processed foods, sugar, flour, and all the stuff I’m always begging you to cut from your diet.
That might explain why years of research have linked the Mediterranean diet to decreased risk of inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and — to get back to the topic of this article — Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, it’s associated with better cognitive function in general.
Part of the reason may be that the Mediterranean diet is linked to bigger brains.
A recent study looked at more than a thousand older adults (age 70 at the start of the study). The researchers examined the participants’ diets and used MRIs to examine their brains.
After three years, the people who adhered less to the principles of the Mediterranean diet had a significantly greater decrease in brain volume. That shows that choosing a Mediterranean-style diet and, most importantly, sticking with it, can have measurable effects on preserving brain health.
Picking up where the
Mediterranean Diet leaves off
The Mediterranean diet gives us some important guidelines in terms of foods to eat and foods to avoid. But as I said, it’s not a definitive eating plan. In fact, depending on which studies and websites you read, you may get conflicting advice.
So while it’s a good start, it’s only that — a start.
In my latest book, The A-List Diet, I build on the successes of the Mediterranean diet and develop it even further. One of the main differences between The A-List Diet and previous diets is that it focuses heavily on finding exactly the right balance of amino acids for each individual.
That’s especially important for brain health, since amino acids play a complex and sometimes confusing role in cognitive function.
Just look at a study that was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The researchers wanted to get closer to an understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s disease, so they did what many brain researchers do: They looked at mice.
The mice were genetically modified to have symptoms that mimicked Alzheimer’s disease — amyloid plaques, behavioral changes, loss of neurons, etc. And they found that one key factor involved in Alzheimer’s, neuronal death in the hippocampus, seemed to be related to levels of the amino acid arginine. The mice with reduced arginine levels had more neuronal death in the hippocampus, which is the brain’s memory center.
As a result, the mice had suppressed immune reactions. And that led to an increase in levels of the enzyme arginase. Arginase breaks down arginine and is abundant in the memory-related areas of the brain.
The researchers tried blocking arginase to see what would happen. And what they found was that by stopping arginase from having its damaging effects, they were able to cut down on amyloid beta plaques (a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease). Plus, the mice began to perform better on memory tests.
According to the researchers, this study shows that increasing arginine levels could be a way of tackling the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This is preliminary research, and it’s too soon to say for sure whether consuming more arginine will have any effect on Alzheimer’s risk or treatment. Still, the research is promising.
That leads me to another paper I read recently. This one got deep into the weeds about the science behind how amino acids work in the brain, but I’ll distill some of the main points for you here.
This paper was a literature review. It compiled information from lots of different studies that have been done on amino acids and Alzheimer’s. What was most interesting to me was that it looked at Alzheimer’s disease as a metabolic condition. Just like diabetes.
See a theme emerging here?
Let’s face it. We have been studying amyloid plaques and tau proteins for decades and that research has led us nowhere. It is high time we start thinking of AD as another metabolic disease.
Studies have shown that amino acid levels are altered in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In healthy people, amino acids are processed into other useful metabolites or oxidized to create energy. But, in people with Alzheimer’s disease, this cycle may not work as it should.
This paper looked at how decreased glucose metabolism within neurons could play a central role in Alzheimer’s disease. The authors found that “amino acid oxidation can temporarily compensate” for the diminished glucose metabolism and prevent the neurons from dying. However, after a while, the changes to the amino acids have a negative effect and may make Alzheimer’s disease worse.
Which, once again, is why it’s so critical to keep your metabolism (and, in turn, your weight) in check: So that your body doesn’t have to compensate for diminished glucose metabolism in the first place, and can use those precious amino acids for more important things — including keeping your brain operating at peak performance.
Like I said, it’s complicated and can be confusing to understand all the metabolic functions amino acids have within cells — and how those functions play out in terms of health and disease. But the bottom line is that amino acids have far-reaching effects in the brain. And they’re an integral part of the cognitive health equation.
Building a better brain,
one “milkshake” at a time
One thing we know for sure about amino acids is that they’re essential for weight control, stabilizing blood sugar, and preventing diabetes. And, as we now know, those are all important factors in brain health.
I have spent a lot of time researching the benefits of amino acids. And after seeing just how much of an impact they can have on reducing adipose tissue and increasing muscle protein synthesis, I knew I had to incorporate them into the A-List Diet.
I’ve said it before, but if you want to lose weight, you absolutely must build lean muscle. Why? Because muscle burns calories, even at rest. That increases your metabolism and makes it easier and more efficient to not only lose weight, but to keep it off.
The more lean muscle you have, the less likely you are to become overweight or obese. And that lessens your likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes. That, in turn, makes it more likely that you’ll keep your wits about you as you get older.
When it comes to building muscle, protein is king. Whey is my favorite supplemental protein source, because it has the best amino acid profile. It provides all nine of the essential amino acids and is highly absorbable by the body. (Not to mention, whey protein shakes are delicious and seem more like dessert than a supplement! Just be sure to look for one with no artificial sweeteners and less than 8 grams of carbs per serving.)
Whey also promotes better use of glucose and is rich in leucine — one of the branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) I’m so fond of. Leucine is the most important of the three BCAAs (valine and isoleucine are the other two). It’s unique in that it is used in muscle tissue as an energy source. That means it helps keep your muscles burning fat … and gaining building more lean muscle. It’s a beautiful cycle.
Brain chemistry is tricky to figure out and study. The bottom line is, we know that a healthy diet, with boosts of targeted amino acids, keeps our metabolic functions running at top speed. Which is a critical part of protecting our brains as we age.
For more detailed guidance on reining in your weight and addressing any metabolic issues you might be struggling with, I recommend two sources.
The first is my new book, The A-List Diet. It gives you all the details on maximizing the amino acid content of your diet. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you can get one from your local bookstore or by visiting
The second is my Metabolic Repair Protocol. It offers complete, step-by-step instructions on correcting the underlying imbalances throwing off your metabolism. You can learn more about it by clicking here or calling 866-747-9421 and asking for code EOV3T800.
Together, these two resources will help you achieve better weight control, better brain function — and better health overall.
“Amino Acid Catabolism in Alzheimer’s Disease Brain: Friend or Foe?” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 5472792
“Brain changes in overweight/obese and normal-weight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Diabetologia, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s00125-017-4266-7
“Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort.” Neurology. 2017;88(5):449-455.
“Arginine deprivation and immune suppression in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.” Journal of Neuroscience, 15 April 2015, 35 (15) 5969-5982; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4668-14.2015
“Increased susceptibility to metabolic dysregulation in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease is associated with impaired hypothalamic insulin signaling and elevated BCAA levels. Alzheimers Dement. 2016 Aug;12(8):851-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2016.01.008.