You (and Your Brain) are What You Eat #2/2 ( By TIME - Jan. 08. 2006 )

I'm not aware of any brain foods that have as much scientific evidence behind them as fish and fish oil. But I would keep an eye on turmeric, the yellow spice that is a major ingredient in American mustard and Indian curries. A relative of ginger, turmeric comes from the underground stem of a tropical plant and is being carefully studied for its medicinal effects. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that has anticancer properties and may offer significant protection against Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's begins as an inflammatory process in the brain. Anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, and so do turmeric and its most studied component, curcumin. India has the world's lowest rate of Alzheimer's, and some experts think that daily consumption of turmeric is a contributing factor.

Finally, in addition to all the other reasons to eat fruits and vegetables, there are some that relate to the brain. The pigments that account for the varied colors of vegetables and fruits have antioxidant properties that offer significant protection against cancer and other chronic diseases, as well as protection from a range of environmental toxins, including pesticides. Toxic injury to the brain is almost certainly the cause of Parkinson's disease, and probably amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). For that reason alone, it's a good idea to eat every day from as many parts of the color spectrum as you can. It's also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin-multimineral supplement that provides the right doses and forms of the key antioxidants: vitamins C and E, mixed carotenoids and selenium.

A good diet is certainly not the only way to protect and enhance brain health. Regularly exercising the mind and not smoking are also important. But food choices do count. So eat your vegetables, think about your daily dose of omega-3s, and consider flavoring more of your food with turmeric.

Andrew Weil is clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, where he founded the program in integrative medicine


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