The Mindspan Diet: Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk, Minimize Memory Loss, and Keep Your Brain Young, by Preston W. Estep III, is a collection of data from populations that stave off cognitive aging. Estep suggests that the healthiest eating patterns for physical and mental longevity differ from the dietary recommendations given to Americans.
Estep is a geneticist and the director of gerontology at the Personal Genome Project at Harvard Medical School. He developed a revolutionary plan for curbing memory loss and improving cognitive longevity that might change how you think about diet and aging.
Neurodegenerative disorders are on the rise in the U.S., Europe, and in the most affluent nations of the world.
According to a recent study, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias rose more than three-fold, and deaths from Parkinson’s disease doubled globally between 1990 and 2010.
Dr. Estep uses the term ‘mindspan’ to measure how long during a lifespan the mind is active and how well it performs. People are living longer, but they are experiencing greater levels of cognitive decline later in life.
Dr. Estep asked whether longevity is a result of genes or environment. Most experts agree that the contribution of genes explains only a small fraction of longevity. The environment is responsible for the remaining majority of the longevity equation, and diet is a major component of the environment.
There are people who Dr. Estep call the Mindspan Elite who live very long lives and remain as alert, active, and autonomous as people decades younger. Japanese are part of the Mindspan Elite. When they move to other countries, their health typically goes downhill. Dr. Estep attributed this to the change to a more Western eating pattern.
Many studies have shown that people who adopt healthy Asian and Mediterranean-style diets have lower levels of disease.
Core principles of the Mindspan Diet:
- Less red meat and added sugar
- Less liquid milk (moderate amounts of cheese butter, sour cream)
- Moderate to fairly high amounts of fish and seafood, not deep-fried
- More beans and other legumes
- Fat consumption varies, but if it is high, then it is mostly monounsaturated (typically olive oil)
- Alcohol consumption varies but is routine, usually with meals, and is not extreme among the longest-lived
- Abundant dietary phytochemicals, such as polyphenols and tannins, consumed with meals and present in fruits and vegetables, red wine, coffee and tea
- More fermented, pickled, and preserved foods such as vinegar and dried fish
- More greens. Greens and herbs and seaweed.
Relatively low animal protein is a shared dietary attribute among the Mindspan Elite regions and subcultures. Research shows that animals raised on low-protein diets live longer than animals eating diets with typical amounts of protein. The China Study, a well-known study done in the 1980s, found the dietary protein intake is a primary determinant of diseases later in life, including cardiovascular disease and cancers.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA that protect the ends of our chromosomes. Long, stable telomeres are robust predictors of good health and longevity. As we age, telomeres get broken down and become shorter.
The shortening of telomeres can be accelerated by certain environmental variables, including diet. A higher intake of omega-3 fats, good sleep, low stress, and routine exercise all are associated with longer telomere length.
Two of the most important and commonly measured cardiovascular biomarkers are cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Dr. Estep discovered that if these are moderately elevated on their own, it is not alarming. Longevity and mindspan are at a greater risk off these high biomarker levels are accompanied by high blood iron levels, which accelerate the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. High oxidation plus high LDL is deadly for both your heart and your brain.
Iron is the most abundant and potent oxidant in the body, but your body doesn’t have a way to get rid of excess iron, unlike other minerals. We need iron to carry oxygen throughout the body. Too much can leave behind plaques in the brain that are primary divers of Alzheimer’s disease. Hemosiderin, lipofuscin, and amyloid plaques are dangerous.
When we are young, we need iron for proper brain development. In adults, high body iron stores increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), stroke, and other diseases of the brain and nervous system.
People have excess iron in their systems because red meat consumption remains too high, and because of iron fortification in grain products. The problem with most iron-enriched grain products is that the iron is absorbed rapidly with large amounts of monosaccharide sugars from the breakdown of the starch in the grain.
This is a toxic and completely unnatural combination that produces stresses on your body, especially your vasculature and your pancreas, which regulates insulin and glucose. Some of the worst offenders are breakfast cereals that are hyper-enriched with iron. It is key to point out here that the amount of iron on nutritional labels is specific to menstruating women and is very misleading for everyone else. Older people and males need less than half of the recommended daily intake on the food label.
Two genes APOE and APP have the most effect on longevity. Both genes are influenced by diet and lifestyle, since they interact with iron, and amplify the effects of iron in the brain. Recent evidence has shows that APOE transports most of the iron to the brain. The cerebrospinal fluid level of ferritin (the main iron storage protein in the body) predicted the degree of cognitive decline – higher ferritin led to faster decline and dementia.
The gene for APP (amyloid precursor protein) causes the plaque that is found in brains afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggest that the job of APP in the brain is to protect cells and tissue from iron’s oxidative damage.
There are other variants in genes that govern the absorption of iron from food. Many people have gene variants that increase absorption of iron from food, increasing the risk of overload. It is important to check your iron levels to ensure that you avoid overloading iron. It is difficult to reverse – blood donations and iron chelators are the most common way.
For men and women, aim for 10-40 ng/mL for maximum health benefits. This range is based on historical levels in Japanese women. They have the lowest iron levels in the developed world, the longest lives, and low rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Estep says the bottom line is that iron is a a critical nutrient for proper functioning of the body and mind, but most adults in developed countries get far too much of it. The only way to know if you are at risk is to test serum ferritin.
Periwinkle, also known as Sadabahar, is the ‘ever-blooming blossom’ with a well-known flower that has been used in modern medicine and herbal remedies. It is also called ‘Madagascar Periwinkle’ in English, ‘Nayantara’ in Bengali, ‘Ushamalari’ in Malayalam, and ‘Sadapushpa’ in Hindi.
Periwinkle is part of the evergreen family and can grow to 6 feet. Although the plant is native to Madagascar, it is found throughout the world. It is highly branched and develops a woody base, with flowers that can bloom throughout the year depending on the climate. The flowers are often bred for their unique colors, ranging from white to green-yellow and lavender. The seed pod dries, splits, and releases numerous tiny seeds. The stem produces a milky sap that is rich in indole alkaloids, which are useful for:
- Prevention from various cancer types such as cervical cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer
- Helps to lower inflammation in the body
- With its antioxidant properties, it combats harmful free radicals
- It assists body to get rid of toxins and also cleanse the system
- It helps to maintain estrogen balance
Periwinkle herb is a perennial that has long been used for improving brain health by increasing blood circulation in the brain, supporting brain metabolism, increasing mental productivity, preventing memory and concentration problems, and preventing early aging of brain cells.
Researchers believe that periwinkle’s brain benefits come from the active compounds in the herb, reserpine and vincamine. Reserpine is an alkaloid with powerful effects on blood pressure and mood. Vincamine is a compound used for general brain health. The vincamine in periwinkle is believed to be valuable for enhancing memory, which means that it may be beneficial for treating helping with degenerative brain issues. Due to these powerful compounds, research suggests that periwinkle herb may be one of the best herbs for memory recall and enhancing memory in patients with cognitive decline.
These powerful antioxidants and flavonoids improve the memory capacity, concentration, calmness, focus, and alertness. Being a brain tonic and stimulator, people consuming extracts of periwinkle have improved memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities. The neuroprotective elements in the plant not only prevent loss of memory by slowing early aging of brain cells but also facilitates proper blood circulation in the brain tissues and relieve tension from the brain.
According to two scientists from Canada who experimented with periwinkle, it can prevent and treat cancer. It contains alkaloids that helped lower the count of blood cells, possibly offering a cure for various types of cancers such as leukemia and Hodgkin disease. Consult a doctor before adding periwinkle to your supplements.
Periwinkle is known for its potential to curb bleeding and enhancing healing. The oil extracted from the leaves of Periwinkle could help in curing nose bleeds and irritated gums. It could also be used to ease the bleeding hemorrhoids. Being a good styptic by nature, this herb is powerful enough to regulate excessive bleeding during menstruation and menopause.
The extract of this plant can be applied topically to ease various skin ailments, including dermatitis, eczema, and acne. It can also be used as a powerful natural cure for wasp and bee stings. Periwinkle has been studied for potential antimicrobial and anti-protozoal applications, as well as for use in diabetes and wound healing
The excellent hypoglycemic property of periwinkle plays a significant role in alleviating blood sugar. The production of insulin from the β-pancreatic cells becomes active in taking this flower extract. Periwinkle helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose level Periwinkle has been an integral part of ancient medications to lower blood sugar levels and keep diabetes under control. Periwinkle tea is still used across the globe widely to manage diabetes. If you are already taking diabetic medications, make sure you do not consume the tea in excess quantities as it could lead to hypoglycemia.
Periwinkle tea can be used as a solution for healing sore and strep throat infections. Use the tea as a gargle for your throat infections. Do it twice or thrice a day, but make sure you are not overdoing it as it could be lethal. Periwinkle has rich astringent properties that make it an excellent solution for canker sores. Use the periwinkle tea as a mouth rinse to ease the oral sores’ pain and inflammation and promote better healing.
Periwinkle acts as a natural antihypertensive agent which normalizes the blood pressure levels and keeps it under check. By improving the heart functions, it enhances cardiovascular endurance which brings the blood pressure to a stable level to achieve balanced readings.
A closely related semisynthetic derivative of vincamine (periwinkle’s active constituent) most widely used as medicine is known as ethyl-apovincaminate or vinpocetine. It has been shown in double-blind studies to help alleviate a type of dementia known as vascular dementia, in which the arteries supplying blood to the brain develop atherosclerotic plaques periwinkle is a potent traditional remedy to increase the functioning of the brain.
Periwinkle helps in effectively curing various digestive conditions, including diarrhea and gastritis.
This herb is known to be beneficial for various renal system conditions such as cystitis and calcium buildup due to dialysis.
According to those who have tried it, the herb could treat vertigo, tinnitus, headaches, edema, and vaginal discharge.
It is advisable to refrain from using this herb if you have low blood pressure or constipation. People with a history of liver, lung, or kidney diseases should also avoid this herb. Pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as children, also shouldn’t take it.
Take the advice of your doctor before you use this herb.
How to Buy
I like Vinpocetine from Life Extension. Do not exceed the dose of one tablet, one to three times a day with meals.
You can buy periwinkle tea in bulk from Starwest Botanicals.
Buy periwinkle extract from Herb Pharm.
How to Store
Store all supplements of periwinkle in a cool, dry place.
How to Cook
Simple Fermented Vegetables
Daniela Modesto/ One Green Planet
- 1-2-pounds organic carrots cut into sticks
- 1 bag organic radishes, sliced
- 6-8 organic pickling cucumbers
- 1 quart filtered water
- 2-3 tablespoons fine sea salt
- 2-3 sliced cloves garlic (or more)
- A few sprigs fresh dill
- To prepare brine, combine warm water and salt and set aside to cool.
- Slice garlic cloves and add to jars along with as much fresh dill as you want.
- Slice radishes and cut carrots and pickles to be slightly shorter than the jar. Tightly pack each into jars, as many as can fit. Pour the cooled brine and fill all the way to the top ensuring that vegetables are covered completely.
- Twist on the lid and let ferment at room temperature for 7-14 days. Keep away from an area with temperature fluctuations such as a stove. If you have leftover brine, store it in the refrigerator and used at a later point.