Brain Health, Memory & Cognition by W. Jean Dodds DVM 3269 Of the primary factors that help control aging and memory, balanced nutrition and modest amounts of exercise are the most important for ourselves and the pets with whom we share our lives. Functional foods are those that provide optimal nutrition and body function and improve the memory and cognitive activity of aging. These include vitamins E and C, and resveratrol (acting as antioxidants) along with a mixture of fruits and vegetables to reduce free radical damage. Also important are alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine as they are co-factors of the mitochondria of all cells. Mitochondria are responsible within cells for providing for their respiration and energy production. Exercise in modest amounts should be given along with tasks for the pet to learn and perform. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for dogs especially as they age because they help improve brain health and function and slow the loss of cognitive function associated with aging. The requirement for essential nutrients increases not only during periods of rapid growth or reproduction but also in geriatrics, because immune function and bio-availability of nutrients generally wanes with aging. Top 10 Great Foods for Brain Health and Memory Leafy greens (folate, vitamin B 9) – kale, spinach, collard and mustard greens Cruciferous vegetables (folate, carotenoids) – broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts Beans/ legumes (choline) Whole grains (gluten-free = quinoa, millet, rice, soy, corn, flax, sorghum, TEFF, tapioca) Berries/cherries (anthocyanins, antioxidants, vitamins C and E) Omega 3 fatty acids (anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory) Yellow Squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, beets (folate, vitamin A, iron) Nuts (omega fatty acids, vitamins E and B 6, folate, magnesium) CAUTION macadamia, and walnuts are unsafe for pets Seeds (zinc, choline, vitamin E) Spices (anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory) Other Functional Superfoods Eggs – high in quality protein and choline for brain and memory Kiwis – antioxidant-rich, vitamins A, C and E, potassium, high in fiber Quinoa – high in protein and fiber, iron, zinc, vitamin. E, selenium Salmon – high omega-3 and iron, low calorie and low saturated fat Sweet Potatoes – high in vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium Mediterranean type diet – fish, nuts (for dogs: not macadamia, walnut or hickory nuts; brazil nuts and cashews are high in fat; pistachios, pecans, almonds can be moldy (aflatoxins); some dogs = peanut reactive); whole gluten-free grains; olive oil, fresh produce Avoid Trans Fats & Saturated Fats – less dairy, red meat, fried foods Heart-Healthy diet – also good for the brain Plenty of Omega-3 Fatty Acids – causes 26% less brain lesions Smaller meals throughout the day – helps digestion Eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries – of various colors Green Tea – enhances memory and alertness; anti-inflammatory; put on body sores, in foods Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Clinical Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Incontinence Confusion/disorientation in familiar surroundings Increased sleeping/insomnia Loss of interest in people and events Forgetfulness of house-training habits Failure to recognize familiar people and animals Wandering aimlessly/pacing Loss of appetite/forgetting to eat Staring into space Decreased activity level Lack of response to name/commands Failure to pay attention Nutrients of Genera Benefit for Cognitive Dysfunction Milk thistle and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) Phosphatidylserine Phosphatidylcholine Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids Anthocyanins Avoid glutens Avoid carbohydrates with high glycemic index Silibinin (milk thistle extract) prevents impairment of both short-term and recognition memory prevention for cancer as well works as antioxidant, protects brain from oxidative damage SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) improves neuron membrane fluidity increases serotonin and dopamine metabolites reduces effects of depression in people may help human Alzheimer’s patients Phospholipid choline is critical for cell membrane structure and function increases production of acetylcholine helps reverse signs of cognitive and other neurological disorders of aging pets Medium -Chain Triglycerides, like coconut oil, break down and absorb rapidly, unlike fats; quick source of non-carbohydrate energy readily cross blood-brain barrier, supplying 20% of brain energy requirement important for ketone production help body use omega-3 fatty acids more efficiently helps age-related cognitive decline by providing alternative source of brain energy Anthocyanins give berries their rich pigment; antioxidants; also benefit cognitive health of senior dogs most potent is aronia, the chokeberry. Greater antioxidant than all other berries; anti-cancer; anti-bacterial, anti-viral and even anti-diabetic; and anti-inflammatory Avoid Glutens protect brain function in geriatrics and those with gluten intolerance by avoiding wheat, barley, rye, oats unless labeled gluten-free, kamut, spelt, farro, and couscous linked with impairment of brain function, including learning disabilities, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and memory problems gluten sensitivity may manifest exclusively as a neurological disease Avoid Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) impaired glucose metabolism caused by sugary foods can promote brain starvation, leading to memory problems, like canine cognitive dysfunction foods with high GI can also lead to hunger-related behavioral problems simple carbohydrates digest and absorb quickly (hence rapid rise and fall in blood sugar concentrations), so pets feel hungry again quickly Tags: Brain health memory cognition food exercise Canine superfoods pets diets jean dodds dvm About W. Jean Dodds DVM Veterinarian for more than 50 years, graduating when women were pioneers. Dedicated career to helping animals stay healthy, thrive and have long lives. Experienced and widely published in clinical and research fields of hematology, immunology, endocrinology, nutrition and animal welfare. Co-author of two popular books (The Canine Thyroid Epidemic and Canine Nutrigenomics).