Brain Food, by Lisa Mosconi, PhD, INHC (PhD in neuroscience and nuclear medicine) is a fascinating and easy to read book about how to eat for cognitive health. Dr. Mosconi “founded and was formerly the director of the Nutrition and Brain Fitness Lab at New York University School of Medicine,” and is currently the “Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC)/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital”. Her research on Alzheimer’s shows simple changes in diet including hydrating properly can actually prevent or slow the progression of dementia and other diseases like Alzheimer’s.
According to Harvard Medical School, not only is water necessary for hydration, but it also carries out many other necessary function, such as:
- carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
- flushing bacteria from your bladder
- aiding digestion
- preventing constipation
- normalizing blood pressure
- stabilizing the heartbeat
- cushioning joints
- protecting organs and tissues
- regulating body temperature
- maintaining electrolyte (sodium) balance.
Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. This algorithm can depend on a number of factors including age, daily activities and intensity level, weather, and your body type. Consider this: according to Mosconi, “as little as 3 to 4 percent decrease in water intake will almost immediately affect the brain’s fluid balance, causing a number of issues like fatigue, brain fog, reduced energy, headaches, and mood swings… You could easily reach that level of dehydration just by going about an average day that included moderate exercise and neglecting to drink water throughout.” The recommended eight glasses of eight ounces of water a day (close to two liters) is easy to remember and should prevent that degree of loss, but this depends on the factors listed above.
When it comes to brain health, according to Mosconi, “some [studies] look at the brains of people who are not drinking [enough], and they show many parts of the brain get thinner and lose volume over time in people who are dehydrated. If you don’t drink water, it looks like your brain is aging faster.” Thinner and lose of volume mimics what is seen in the brains of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The National Institutes of Health published a study that found even mild dehydration of 1.36% in women showed, “degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration, and headache symptoms.” A similar study on men found a 1 – 3% loss of fluid “induced adverse changes in vigilance and working memory, and increased tension/anxiety and fatigue.” Many replicated studies came to the same conclusions regarding children and the elderly.
Other studies have shown drinking three cups of water before completing a task can improve your cognitive ability, including reaction time (maybe consider this before your drive home from work). Mosconi recommends drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up the morning in order to replenish your body’s loss of water and lack of intake during the night. I’ve adopted this habit and can attest to its refreshing effects, including being more alert during the morning.
Thankfully, you can rehydrate, which within a few days will reverse the effects of dehydration on your body and brain. Spring, mineral and well water (hard water is better) are your sources for true hydration, according to Mosconi, especially when considering brain health. Water touted as “purified” has been stripped of its minerals, including electrolytes, which are necessary for hydration and proper brain function. Sports and energy drinks often contain added ingredients like sugar, which your body definitely does not need. Even public drinking water is often chlorinated and treated so severely it leaves behind no truly hydrating minerals.
What should you drink?
Here’s a list of recommended hydrating beverages, as well as fruits and vegetables to keep your skin, body, and brain in tip top shape:
- Well Water (hard water is best, tested to make sure there are no harmful chemicals)
- Spring and Mineral Water (Fuji, Evian or Poland Spring for example)
- Coconut Water (check the ingredients label to make sure it is pure, with no added sugar or ingredients and organic if you can)
- Aloe vera juice (again, check the ingredients label to make sure it is pure, with no added ingredients and organic if you can)
- At home filtrated water, specifically designed to leave in the good minerals
- Rose or Chamomile tea
- Fruit-infused Water
- Almond milk
Top 10 Fruits and Vegetables for Hydration
According to Dr. Mosconi and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, up to 20 percent of our fluid intake can come from fruits
Some tips for drinking more water:
- Drink 8 ounces of water as soon as you wake up in the morning.
- Set a reminder on your phone to go off throughout the day – drink a glass a water with each reminder.
- Put Post-It- Notes in key places (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, kitchen sink, favorite book, television, steering wheel or console, and nightstand are some ideas)
- Invest in and fill a 20-ounce (or similar) thermos – fill, take with you, and drink at least three times each day to keep track.
With warm weather upon us, please make sure to keep yourself and family hydrated!
Much love and happiness,