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  • Adriano dos Santos

Optimizing your diet can boost your brain’s performance at any point in your life.

Ever wondered how some 90-year-olds remain so whip-smart? Chances are it might have something to do with what they’ve been eating over the last half-century.

There are plenty of myths out there about the way the brain works. One common misconception is that our brains stop developing once we hit 25. After that, it’s often claimed, it’s all downhill. But that’s just not true. In fact, our brains can continue improving throughout our lives.

Scientists proved as much in the mid-1990s. Brains, they discovered, continue changing until death – something known in the field of neuroscience as neuroplasticity – and food plays an important part in keeping the brain healthy. Choosing the correct diet doesn’t just help prevent future illnesses like dementia, but it can also dramatically improve the function of the brain today.

The author began to notice this after researching brain health and diet in an attempt to understand his mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. After adapting his own diet, he became more focused, energetic and balanced. That's because what we eat has a massive impact on overall brain health.

A study conducted by the Food and Mood Center at Deakin University in 2017 found that severe depression can be treated by making dietary changes.

When participants in the study cut sugar, fried food and processed meats from their diets, while eating more vegetables, olive oil, nuts, fish, whole grains, legumes and lean red meat, their depressive symptoms were radically reduced.

Finnish neurobiologist Miia Kivipelto, an expert on the effects of diet and lifestyle on brain health, has further found that healthy eating can boost cognitive function more generally.

Kivipelto’s study was based on 1,200 older adults deemed at risk of cognitive decline. Half the participants were enrolled in social support groups for loneliness, depression and stress, while simultaneously taking part in nutritional and exercise programs. The remaining participants received only social support.

The results? The first group saw their cognitive function rise by an astonishing 25 percent, while their decision-making and interpersonal skills improved by 83 percent in comparison to the second group.

So that’s the science behind healthy eating. Better dietary choices can make you smarter, happier and more productive.

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