Issue: # 13

February 2011


Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo with HealthCare Insights, LLC


This month we highlight ways to keep your brain and body fats healthy.  In addition, we share important research reports on two other brain healthy lifestyles.

Two ways to increase size of your brain’s memory center (and reduce stress!) (1) Walk 40 minutes, 3 times a week (2) Meditate 30 minutes a day.

These two methods may affect different, important parts of the hippocampus. Meditation enlarged the grey matter in the left hippocampus (especially involved with verbal and memory of language), while walking enlarged the hippocampus’s anterior part including the dentate gyrus. The dentate gyrus is the most metabolically active part of our brain and is involved in spatial memory, short-term memory and new learning.  Neurogenesis is most prominent in this part of the adult brain; many surmise it is because creation of new brain cells and dendritic connections are essential  to the production of new memories.

To hear Nancy speak, check out the events article.


 Did You Know? Cholesterol is needed to live and think!
Our Consumer Tip for February – is a combination of last month’s and our cholesterol tip, in honor of February as Heart Health Month

Consumer Guideline Tip for February 2011 e-newsletter:

“Favorite Fats!  Eat healthier fats such as Omega 3’s, and monounsaturated fats such as in olive oil and avocados (a great brain food!).  Use olive oil and canola oil for most of your cooking needs. Avoid transfats (partially hydrogenated oils) and reduce intake of saturated fats…emphasizing plant foods will help this strategy succeed.”  

Check the Cholesterol.  Use healthy oils such as olive and canola oils. Eat cholesterol reducing foods such as nuts, oatmeal, grapefruit, purple grapes and juice, niacin, fiber, fish, & certain spices. Eat lean meats and low-fat dairy. Avoid trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) and minimize foods with saturated fats, e.g. replacing ground beef, with ground turkey.      


In January we described the health benefits of our favorite fats; this month we add the cautionary tales about why we need to reduce consumption of saturated fats and avoid trans fats.  Plus we’ll give you some guidelines about how to do that, as well as reduce cholesterol to levels that are brain healthy!

Did You Know? Cholesterol and healthy fats are needed to live and think!

Each cell membrane contains a phospholipids bilayer that, in humans and other animals, contains cholesterol inside the two layers.  The cell membrane typically contains fatty acids of varying composition, ranging from polyunsaturated to saturated fats. The key fats for brain health are Omega 3’s; we need to eat enough of them to keep the brain cell membrane healthy, and to keep cholesterol in its proper place.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that our bodies produce, and is essential to cell structure and function. We need a certain amount of cholesterol to live and think and feel.  It is only when we consume or produce it in excess, that we get into trouble, especially when there is excess LDL (low density lipids) in our blood stream and especially when that LDL particles become oxidized and stick to the inside of our blood vessels forming a kind of plaque that inflames the vessel, and impedes the flow of blood. These plaques may break off and cause blockages in vessels, the heart or brain.

Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature, and are found in animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard, butter, and also in coconuts, palm, and other tropical oils. While palm oil is a saturated fat, it is also a source of tocotrienols, the rarer form of vitamin E, so necessary for brain and heart health.  Saturated plant oils are also safer than animal saturated fats because THEY CONTAIN NO CHOLESTEROL. (No plant foods contain cholesterol!)

The American Heart Association also recommends you keep saturated fat consumption as low as possible because saturated fat is associated with raising cholesterol levels, which can increase risk for heart disease and stroke.

The American Heart Association currently recommends that saturated fat intake be limited to 16g or less per day, for a 2,000 calorie diet, and to 12 grams or less for a 1500 calorie diet, and generally limit saturated fat to less than 7 percent of total daily calories.

Brain health generally requires we pursue heart health and thus follow these recommendations. Independent reasons include that brain cell membranes that contain too much saturated fat are less flexible and less permeable.  Inflexible, less permeable cell membranes impede optimum thinking and emotions. Omega 3’s are needed to help keep cholesterol “in its place” in brain cells Check out the article at the end of the newsletter.

In addition to producing our own cholesterol, we add cholesterol to our bodies whenever we eat animal products, as all animals produce cholesterol, including poultry and fish. The difference among red meat, poultry and fish is in the amounts of cholesterol, saturated fats and the other types of fat they contains, with fish and seafood generally containing the most Omega 3’s and the least saturated fats.


How Do We Limit Excess Cholesterol?

Saturated fat is the main cause of high blood cholesterol levels. When you eat too much saturated fat, your body reacts by making more cholesterol than it needs, and the surplus ends up in your blood.


Although a diet high in saturated fat is the main cause of high blood cholesterol levels, high cholesterol in the diet can also raise blood cholesterol levels. And usually the effect is twice as bad, because foods high in cholesterol are usually high in saturated fat.


Which Foods Contain Cholesterol?

Only animal foods contain cholesterol – plant foods do not contain cholesterol. In animals, as in humans, cholesterol is a part of all cells and serves many vital functions. Therefore, foods of animal origin – such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or milk – all contain some cholesterol.


Generally, foods high in animal fat are also high in cholesterol. Two exceptions to this generalization are liver and eggs, which are not high in fat but are high in cholesterol. However eggs are a wonderful brain food as they contain choline which is a building block of new brain cells, and other nutrients important for brain and body health.  As with sugar, when you eat foods rich in cholesterol, look for accompanying redeeming brain and heart healthy qualities, and then still moderate the overall amount.


Which Fats Lower Blood Cholesterol Levels?

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower blood cholesterol levels by helping your body get rid of newly-formed cholesterol. But these fats should replace some of the saturated fat in your diet – not be used in addition to saturated fat. Eating too much of even the healthy fats could result in weight gain which in turn can raise cholesterol levels. The better strategy is to consume mostly plant foods and especially those foods known to help lower cholesterol levels such as oatmeal, grapefruit, purple grape juice, nuts, whole grains, certain spices such as cinnamon, eating lots of vegetables, and the B-vitamin niacin. (see the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program for description of these and other cholesterol lowering foods).

Trans fat is much more harmful than saturated fat.  In addition to increasing LDL levels, trans fat also decreases HDL (the good cholesterol) and has been linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sources of trans fat include partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils, some margarines and shortenings, fried foods, and commercial baked goods such as crackers, cookies, cakes, and other snack foods. Current dietary recommendations advise that trans fat be limited to less than 1 percent of total daily calories (     The Memory Preservation Nutrition® program goes further and recommends for sake of brain health you totally avoid and eliminate trans fats from your diet whenever you have a choice. (In today’s America it is hard to avoid altogether since you are not always in position to know the ingredients of what you are eating).

Figuring out whether or not a food contains trans fat can sometimes be tricky. As of January 1, 2006, a law was created that requires all trans fat to be listed on food labels along with saturated and unsaturated fats. However, according the FDA regulations, a food product claiming to have zero trans fat can still contain up to half a gram per serving and the manufacturer determines the service size.  Thus if the serving size is less then ½ gram, then the label can say zero even if the trans fats is the #1 ingredient. Therefore, it is important to read the ingredient list and look for items such as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” “vegetable shortening,” or similar phrasings. Whenever you see these ingredients, DON’T BUY OR EAT THE PRODUCT!

How Much of Which Kinds of Fats Should I Eat? (repeated from last month)   

All fats, even if they are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are high in calories. Fat contains nine calories per gram (a measure of weight). In comparison, protein and carbohydrates only contain four calories per gram.

So remember, when it comes to fats, the key to maintaining optimal health is eating the right types in moderate amounts.

Limit total fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of daily calories for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.  This amounts to about 44 to 78 grams of total fat a day.

Of this, no more than 16 grams should be saturated fats. About half of the remaining 14-32 calories should be comprised of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and at least 4 to 8 grams of Omega 3’s daily (from vegetables, seed/nut and fish/seafood/seaweed sources).

(To order fish oil or fish oil capsules check out my website) 

For a 1,500 calories diet, get between 25 percent and 35 percent of calories from fat, primarily the healthy unsaturated (MUFAs and PUFAs) fats found in plant oils, fatty fish, nuts and avocados. This means about 375 to 525 fat calories daily, or because one gram of fat contains nine calories, 42 to 58 total grams of fat.   (American Heart Association)

For all diets, try to skip all foods containing trans fats.



Public invited to presentations by Dr. Emerson Lombardo on March 2nd, 16th,  23rd, 24th and 28th and April 6th, 7th, 20th, 27th, and 28th 2011.
See Dr. Emerson Lombardo in Person! 


March 2nd, 2011: Food for Thought

This free event will be held in Methuen, MA at Methuen Village, 4 Gleason St, Methuen MA 01844.  This is a CEU event from 11:30am-1:00pm.  Free brain healthy lunch will be provided.  Please RSVP to 978-685-2220.  Check out the events page at 


March 16th, 2011: Food for Thought

This free event will be held in Acton, MA at the Atlantic Sea Grille, 77 Great Road, Acton MA 01720.  This event is sponsored by the Acton/Boxborough Rotary Club.  There will a short highlight on brain healthy eating by Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo at 12:15pm.  Call the Rotary to register in advance.  You pay for lunch.  Check out the events page at


March 23rd, 2011: Food for Thought: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Brain

This free event will be held in Brighton, MA at the Chestnut Park at Cleveland Circle, 50 Sutherland Road, Brighton MA 02135. There will be refreshments at 5:00pm with a 90 minute presentation from 5:30-7:00pm.  RSVP to 617-566-1700. Check out the events page at  


March 24th, 2011: Brain Healthy Nutrition   

This free event will be held in Framingham, MA at Callahan Senior Center, 535 Union Ave, Framingham, MA 01702. This event starts at 11:00am. Registration is free and there will be a free lunch available.  This event is sponsored by Compass at Golden Pond and the Metrowest Alzheimer’s Partnership. RSVP Leanna Moran –    Check out the events page at


March 26-29th, 2011:26th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International

This conference is being held in Toronto, Ontario at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 123 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5H 2M9.  Nancy will be presenting orally on March 28th at 4:45pm

“Nutritional supplement combination therapy feasibility, safety and biomarker clinical trial in cognitively normal adults.” (about the study at Boston Univ. School of Medicine)  and will have a poster about “Memory Preservation Nutrition  in Assisted Living: a Clinical Practice Report,” from March 27th-29th.  Please register and arrange accommodations at  Check out the events page at



April 6th, 2011: Food For Thought: Brain Healthy Eating   

This free CEU professional event will be held in Jamaica Plain, MA at the Springhouse Retirement Community, 44-46 Allandale Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, sponsored by hospice association. This event starts at 8:00am and will go until 9:00am.  Open to the public and will be held in the Main Street room.  Please RSVP to Springhouse Retirement Community, Karen Pollack 617-971-1678 or Check out the events page at


April 7th, 2011: Eating for a Health Brain: An Evidence Based Approach

This professional event will be held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the Best Western Wynwood Hotel, 508 US Highway 1 Bypass, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801. Register to attend.  This conference starts at 9:00am.  Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo will be speaking from 10:15am-11:30am. For registration information, contact Linnea Hagberg or call

978-281-1750 x366. Please Check out the events page at


April 20th, 2011: Brain Healthy Lifestyles

This free event will be held in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts at EPOCH Assisted Living at Boylston Place, 615 Heath St, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467. This event open to the public starts at 1:30pm and will be running till 3:00pm.  Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo and Dr. Lynn Serper will be speaking on spiritual practices, humor, social engagement, creative arts and music. Check out the events page at


April 27th, 2011: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Brain

This free event will be held in Leominster, MA at Fidelity Bank, 9 Leominster Connector, Leominster MA 01453.  This event starts at 9:00 and Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo will be speaking from 9:00am-10:30am and is open to the public. RSVP with Julie McMurray at or 508-799-2386. Please check out the events page at


April 28th, 2011: Healthy Lifestyles to Improve Brain Health: Evidence Based Recommendations

This is a 6 part class that will take place each Thursday until June 2nd.  It is being hosted by UMASS Boston at 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Healey Library, UMASS Boston, Presentation Room 3, Lower Level, Boston MA 02125. A remote TV site is available in Plymouth.  This class will be held from 1:15-2:45pm  To register for this course contact or telephone (617) 287-7090. Check out the events page at


Check the website for the upcoming events in May and June.



Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in 8 weeks
Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that appeared in the January 30, 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s senior author. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”


Previous studies from Lazar’s group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced mediation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.


For the current study, MR images were taken of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation – which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind – participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.


Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses. The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.


“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.” says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”


Amishi Jha, PhD, a University of Miami neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training’s effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, “These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an 8-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR’s potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.” Jha was not one of the study investigators.


Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, Volume 191, Issue 1, 30 January 2011, Pages 36-43    Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard and Sara W. Lazar   View Abstract

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital


Moderate walking 40 minutes, three times/week for 1 year increases size of hippocampus and improves memory.

An exciting new study, a gold standard randomized controlled trial in normal older adults, shows that aerobic exercise training increases the size of the anterior hippocampus, leading to improvements in spatial memory. “Exercise training increased hippocampal volume by 2%, effectively reversing age-related loss in volume by 1 to 2 years.” Here are some excerpts of coverage of this study by Alzheimer’s Research Forum (ARF).


“To get such dramatic results from a few hours a week was somewhat surprising,” said senior investigator Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in an interview with ARF. He and colleagues reported the findings online January 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.


Plenty of research suggests that physical activity is good for the mind. Prior studies of older adults correlated regular exercise with reduced dementia risk (Larson et al., 2006). Investigations by first author Kirk Erickson, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, linked aerobic fitness to bigger hippocampi (Erickson et al., 2009) and showed, longitudinally, that walking prevents gray matter loss (Erickson et al., 2010 and ARF related news story).  Randomized trials on the benefits of physical activity are rare, though, as it is hard to get people to stick to a specific exercise regimen (McCurry et al., 2010). One such study on seniors with subjective memory complaints did have promising findings-six months of moderate exercise led to modest improvements on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog), measured at 18 months (Lautenschlager et al., 2008 and ARF related news story).


The current study, another randomized trial of dementia-free seniors, offers “much more concrete proof” for the idea that exercise helps the brain, said Eric Larson of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington. “It looked at a biologic endpoint-the size of the part of the brain most important for memory, and one of the parts most affected by dementia”-i.e. the hippocampus.  Collaborating with researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus and Rice University in Houston, Texas, Kramer and Erickson analyzed 120 older adults with normal cognition (average age: 66.5 years) randomized to one year of moderate-intensity walking, OR (control group)  stretching and toning exercises, three times a week. The groups began the study with comparable hippocampal volumes, assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and had similar attendance rates. Participants had brain scans, as well as fitness and memory assessments, at baseline, six months, and after the 12-month intervention.


Consistent with the expected 1 to 2 percent annual hippocampal loss in dementia-free seniors (Raz et al., 2005), the control group lost about 1.4 percent volume in this brain region by the end of the 12-month trial. In contrast, the hippocampi of the walkers grew roughly 2 percent. The benefit seemed specific to the anterior part of this brain structure, which mediates acquisition of spatial memory. Similar effects did not appear in the thalamus, caudate nucleus, or posterior hippocampus.


By measuring changes in the participants’ maximal oxygen consumption, the researchers determined that the intervention succeeded in raising aerobic fitness levels, and that larger fitness boosts correlated with greater hippocampal growth. Furthermore, the team found that, within the control group, people with higher baseline fitness levels had less hippocampal shrinkage than those who were less fit, suggesting that fitness protects against loss of brain tissue.


To explore possible mechanisms underlying these changes, the authors looked at serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in blood collected from participants at baseline and 12 months. BDNF is an important mediator of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.  People who exercise more have higher levels of hippocampal BDNF (Cotman and Berchtold, 2002; Neeper et al., 1995), and increased serum BDNF levels have been correlated with larger hippocampi and better memory performance (Erickson et al., 2010 and Alzheimer’s Research Forum related news story). In the present study, greater elevations in serum BDNF were linked to greater gains in hippocampal volume.     All told, the study “attempted to tie together changes in anatomy with changes in blood chemistry with changes in cognition, in a brain region with a pretty well-defined function (episodic memory),” Kramer said.


Of note, participants in the present study had fairly poor cardiovascular fitness and were asked, in the exercise group, to “walk to 60 percent of their maximal heart rate,” Larson said. “This is stuff anybody could do. You’re not getting winded by this level of exercise.”-Esther Landhuis.


Reference: Erickson KI, Voss MW, Prakash RS, Basak C, Szabo A, Chaddock L, Kim JS, Heo S, Alves H, White SM, Wojcicki TR, Mailey E, Vieira VJ, Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA, McAuley E, Kramer AF. Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. 2011 Jan 31. PNAS Early Edition.


View abstract.


Our Website experiencing technical difficulties which makes it slow to upload information and you have to personally refresh the website or shopping cart in order to see in the cart what you have chosen to purchase.  The site is secure and your purchase will be recorded correctly by Paypal; but if all this is just too cumbersome, just email Dr. Emerson Lombardo directly and tell her what you are interested in purchasing or asking questions about and she’ll get back to you by email or otherwise.

Save 20% on any nutritional supplements ordered on-line in February and March 2011
Go to our website:

Offer Expires: March 31st, 2011


Membrane Fluidity Depends of Type of Fats Comprising the Membrane
The length and the degree of unsaturation of fatty acid chains have a profound effect on membrane fluidity as unsaturated lipids create a kink, preventing the fatty acids from packing together as tightly, thus decreasing the melting temperature (increasing the fluidity) of the membrane. Saturated fats decrease the fluidity as do trans fats. Fluidity and permeability is desirable to allow neurotransmitters and other biologically active substances to flow into and out of the brain cell, for optimal cognition and emotional stability. For our brain cells to work properly, they should be primarily polyunsaturated and most importantly comprised of DHA and other Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Otherwise, they cannot work at peak efficiency and both our emotional and cognitive health and function will be subpar.

References: Emerson Lombardo, N.B.,Volicer, L .Martin, A,.Wu B and Zhang XW. (2006) Memory Preservation Diet To Reduce Risk and Slow Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. in Vellas, B., Grundman, M., Feldman, H., Fitten, L.J., Winblad, B., ed., Research and Practice in Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline, vol 9,: 138-159. and   Jesse Gray, Shana Groeschler, Tony Le, Zara Gonzalez (2002). “Membrane Structure” (SWF). Davidson College. Retrieved 2007-01-11.a


The following is an updated excerpt from my book chapter on the Memory Preservation Nutrition program cited above.  LOMBARDO 12/09/06 14:15 Page 148

Dr. Antonio Martin MD, Ph.D. has established that brain tissue membrane composition reflects dietary sources and that an optimal balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids is necessary to maintain brain cell membrane and vascular health, and protect against oxidative stress and cognitive decline. Dr. Martha Morris reports that dietary intake of Omega- 3 fatty acids from both vegetable and animal sources, and weekly consumption of fish (rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may reduce the risk of incident AD. Otsuka/Ueki’s case control study reported that diets of AD and vascular dementia patients were excessive in intake of Omega-6 PUFA and deficient in intake of Omega-3 PUFA, compared to matched controls who did not have dementia. The American and most Western diets are very deficient in Omega 3’s and over abundant in Omega-6’s; instead of the ideal ratio for the human body and brain of 1:4, these diets are in the range of 1:20 to 1:75.

Membrane fluidity, which is a critical factor for a membrane’s function, depends on its lipidic composition. PUFAs present in the membrane as part of phospholipids increase the membrane fluidity because, by bending some chains, double bonds in PUFAs prevent them from compacting themselves perfectly. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, are highly concentrated in the brain, comprising about 22% of the fatty acid composition of brain phospholipids & brain cell membranes. As a primary determinant of cell membrane fluidity and nerve cell communication, Omega-3’s are critically important for cognitive and behavioral function as well as normal growth and development. Hashimoto’s group in Japan (using DHA in fish oil) and Cole’s group at UCLA (using DHA in marine algae) showed that AD transgenic mice exhibited rapid cognitive decline when deprived of DHA and other Omega-3’s in their diet. Cole’s group further demonstrated that the decline was associated with significant loss of synapses and dendritic material. Cole’s group also showed reversal of effects of DHA deprivation by adding DHA back to the diet of DHA deficient TG 2576 mice; DHA allowed the mice to recover and form new synapses. Both Hashimoto and Cole conclude that DHA protects dramatically against cognitive decline and synaptic deterioration in AD transgenic mice, and thus might also do this in humans. Dick Wurtman MD’s work at MIT verifies that dendritic growth is dependent on the amount of DHA and can be enhanced by additional nutrients such as choline.

Omega-3’s have been shown to work with presenilins to control AKT, Abeta and prevent phosphylation of tau. DHA regulates neuronal functions by modulating membrane properties such as neurotransmitter release, ion channel and enzyme regulation, and receptor-mediated transcription of genes involved in critical neuronal functions, such as memory.  Other scientists have concluded that Omega-3’s may also interfere with etiology of Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the health of lipid rafts in each neuronal cell membrane and preventing the build-up of dimmers of A-beta in addition to deterring phosphorylation of tau (the second abnormal protein implicated in AD).

A higher ratio of dietary Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids than is currently consumed in our population is also recommended for heart health, and can be achieved by increasing consumption of fish and alph-alinolenic acid (Omega-3) in canola, soy and flaxseed oils. Large prospective trials show that people who experience the least coronary heart disease (CHD) have a diet that is rich in fish, PUFAs, whole-grain cereals, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, and low in saturates from dairy fat, meat fat and fried foods. The FDA has now allowed heart health claims for Omega-3’s including DHA. Studies of the efficacy of fish in the diet to slow progression (secondary prevention) of heart disease and prevent mortalities gives further reason to emphasize fish in the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program. The GISSI Prevenzione Trial reported changes in mortality rates due to increasing intake of fish could be seen in as little as 90 days, an efficacy superior to pravastatin and at the same level as simvastatin or aspirin. They reported only beta-blocking agents are superior, but long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids from fish display their beneficial effects even in patients already treated with beta-blockers.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for reducing risk of depression. Since depression itself is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease this is a yet another instance of a nutrient serving as upstream protective factor for multiple chronic diseases.

An important dietary note is that vegetables (small amounts), soybeans, nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds e.g. flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seed and their oils (e.g. canola, flax seed, pumpkin seed, perilla seed oil, and walnut oil), and purslane (a wild plant sometimes cultivated), are sources of shorter chain Omega-3’s while only fish and marine algae, seaweed and other marine plants, plus grass fed and free range or wild animals, are sources of longer chain DHA and EPA so essential to brain health. While the human body can manufacture DHA and EPA from shorter chain Omega-3’s, this ability often declines significantly with age. Hence the importance of direct dietary sources of DHA and the usefulness of DHA and EPA supplements for brain health.

Thus a key dietary strategy in MPD is to avoid or greatly limit foods rich in saturated or trans-fats, both of which if taken in sufficient quantity to replace PUFAs in brain cell membrane, interfere with brain cell fluidity and thus neurotransmitter transmission. A related dietary strategy is to ingest foods and spices that help reduce absorption and retention of unhealthy fats and LDL cholesterol without reducing the “good” HDL cholesterol.

Some foods that assist in lowering LDL cholesterol and other problematic lipids include cinnamon, soy (FDA recommends at least 25 grams per day of soy plus plant sterols to help lower cholesterol), fenugreek, curryleaf, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric, garlic (modest effects), and fiber.

Garlic also has anti-platelet activity facilitating increased blood flow. In the cinnamon study, decreases in LDL were 7 and 27%, in total cholesterol were 12 and 26% and in triglycerides were 23 and 30%, respectively, for doses of 1 gm and 6 grams of cinnamon for 40 days. (The MPN™ recommends a daily dose of ½ to 1 tsp of Cassias  Cinnamon (from either Vietnam or China). Note the less expensive Korinje Cinnamon may have similar benefits as a strong antioxidant, but is derived from a different tree and has not been subjected to clinical trials.)



Nancy is available to answer all questions via e-mail.  

Look for her monthly column in the South Shore Senior News!

For brain health consultations for yourself, your family, or your organization contact Nancy for further information or to book an appointment. 978-621-1926 or email at


Nancy Emerson Lombardo, PhD
HealthCare Insights, LLC
P.O. Box 2683 , Acton , MA 01720

© 2011 HCI

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