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The neuro-degeneration that characterises Alzheimer’s disease is usually expressed by a build-up of abnormal protein in the brain, and malnutrition is one of many causes of this. There is confusion, however, around which foods offer optimal protection against brain decline. One expert has shed light on the matter, by highlighting several dietary sources abundant in amino acids.
Amino acids are the building block of protein, which every cell in the body needs for its reparation and renewal.
Previous studies have shown that together, these acids slow brain degeneration and the development of dementia in animals.
Conversely, low-protein diets are linked with several complications including malfunction of the brain.
Because amino acids play various other roles in the body, a deficiency can present in several ways depending on which acids are lacking.
Some general symptoms, however, may include lethargy, seizures and hypoglycaemia, according to Science Direct.
The warning signs can sometimes be ill-defined and wide-ranging, which sees many of them brushed off as old age.
In the initial stages of a deficiency, people tend to complain of feeling tired, unable to focus and hampers memory.
Ignoring these symptoms for too long could pave the way to other irreversible conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Despite there being overwhelming evidence highlighting the importance of protein, however, “amino acids are crucially often overlooked for brain health,” warned one expert.
Suzie Sawyer, Clinical Nutritionist for Aminoscience, explained: “Amino acids are essential for brain health, particularly for the production of neurotransmitters and the repair of brain cells.
“The amino acids glutamine, arginine, histidines, and proline are used to make the neurotransmitter glutamate, which in the brain supports the growth of neurones, learning and memory.
“The amino acid tyrosine produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter needed for memory and motor skills and also produces epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are responsible for the fight or flight response to stress.
“Tyrosine may also help improve memory and performance in stressful situations.”
One way to dodge this risk is to eat a wider variety of protein-packed foods, that contain a good amount of amino acids.
The nutritionist added: “Load up on protein from varied food sources as the essential neurotransmitter glutamate is made from a range of amino acids.
“Start the day with a breakfast containing eggs in some form. Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids. Eggs also contain choline which is required to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory, mood and intelligence.”
Another dietary source that offers a wealth of amino acids is only fish, which is family important for brain development throughout life.
“Fish of all types contains all the nine essential amino acids,” added Sawyer. “So oily fish (salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, tuna) is an excellent choice for brain health.”
Because the liver and kidneys are good sources of phospholipids, they provide structural integrity for brain cells and their lipid membranes, added the expert.
Although different foods have varying amounts of amino acids, focussing on variety offers the best chance of developing a deficiency.
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