by drpaul


The Shrinking Brain: Avoiding Alzheimer’s

As the Alzheimer’s disease epidemic continues to expand – some describe it as a ‘health meteor’ that’s going to strike the elderly populations from modern countries around 2025, great information is surfacing about how to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.


  • Small Brain Syndrome: People who have Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have ‘shrunken’ brains – i.e. smaller brain volumes; meaning their brains atrophy (and for you physiology nerds, their ventricles enlarge).[1]
  • Large Brain People: There are people, despite having the characteristic pathologic brain lesions commonly associated with AD, show no cognitive decline. Why? (i.e. what’s their secret?), what’s theneuroprotective mechanism in those people who don’t suffer even though they have the plaques? Larger brain volume.[2]
  • Fish Oil and Larger Brains: Blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids (that’s fish oil) lead to larger brain volumes (i.e. decreased brain atrophy).[3]
  • Exercise Helps Your Brain (… duh): What fires, wires. Regular exercise helps brain neurons to continually develop and stay healthy and is associated with preventing brain tissue loss and decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s.[4]

[1] Apostolova, Liana G, et al. Hippocampal Atrophy and Ventricular Enlargement in Normal Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer Disease Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders: Jan–Mar 2012; 26(1):17–27.
[1] Silbert, LC, et al Changes in premorbid brain volume predict Alzheimer’s disease pathology Neurology Aug 26, 2003 61(4): 487-492.
[2] Erten-Lyons, Deniz, et al. Factors associated with resistance to dementia despite high Alzheimer disease pathology Neurology January 27, 2009 vol. 72(4) 354-360.
[3] Pottala, James V. PhD Higher RBC EPA + DHA corresponds with larger total brain and hippocampal volumes Neurology (2014) First published online before print January 22, 2014 doi: 10.1212.
[3] Tan, ZS, et al. Red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid levels and markers of accelerated brain aging. Neurology Feb 28, 2012 vol. 78(9):658-664
[4] Erickson, Kirk I, et al. Beyond vascularization: aerobic fitness is associated with N-acetylaspartate and working memory Brain and Behavior 2012 January; 2(1): 32–41.
[4]Larson, Eric B, et al. Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older. Ann Intern Med. 2006;144(2):73-81.

[4]Tian, Q, et al. Physical Activity Predicts Microstructural Integrity in Memory-Related Networks in Very Old Adults J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci (2014) First published online: January 28, 2014 doi: 10.1093.
[4]Colcombe, SJ, et al. Aerobic fitness reduces brain tissue loss in aging humans. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2003 Feb; 58(2):176-80.

Brain Plasticity

by admin


No, despite the name of this post, this isn’t about Dr. Paul in the ’70s.

The title of this journal article pretty much says it all: The impact of diet and exercise on brain plasticity and disease. [Pinilla FG, Nutr Health. 2006;18(3):277-84]

“Lifestyle involves our preference to engage in behaviors that can remarkably influence the fitness level of our body and brain. Dietary factors are a powerful means to influence brain function on a daily basis. Equally impressive is the action of exercise on cognitive function as documented by studies showing that exercise enhances learning and memory.”

Brain plasticity refers to the capability of the brain to lay down new neuronal pathways, make new connections – in other words, the brain’s function is improved at every stage of life when a healthy diet and exercise are a not only part of your lifestyle, but they are your lifestyle.

“A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that exercise has a positive impact on human health, including neurological health. Aerobic exercise, which is supposed to enhance cardiovascular functions and metabolism, also induces neurotrophic factors that affect hippocampal neurons, thereby improving spatial learning and memory.” [Cassilhas RC, et al Spatial memory is improved by aerobic and resistance exercise through divergent molecular mechanisms. Neuroscience 2012 Jan 27; 202:309-317]


Additional References:

Gomez-Pinilla F Collaborative effects of diet and exercise on cognitive enhancement. Nutr Health 2011;20(3-4):165-9

Gomez-Pinilla F The combined effects of exercise and foods in preventing neurological and cognitive disorders. Prev Med 2011 Jun1;52 Suppl 1:S75-80. Epub 2011 Jan 31


Fish Oil and its Effect on the Brain:
Wu A, Gomez-Pinilla F Docosahexaenoic acid dietary supplementation enhances the effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity and cognition. Neuroscience 2008 Aug 26;155(3):751-9. Epub 2008 Jun 17