Category Archives: Diet

B Vitamins (Folate, B6, B12) Reduce Homocysteine Levels Produced by Carbidopa/Levodopa Therapy

“The excitement of vitamins, nutrition and metabolism permeated the environment.” Paul D. Boyer

“A substance that makes you ill if you don’t eat it.” Albert Szent-Gyorgy

Introduction: Claire McLean, an amazing-PT who is vital to my life managing my Parkinson’s, posted a very interesting article about the generation of homocysteine from the metabolism of levodopa to dopamine in the brain. Here is the article:

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This was all a very new concept to me. And as an ‘old-time’ biochemist by training, it led me down a trail of wonderful biochemical pathways and definitely a story worth retelling  for anyone taking carbidopa/levodopa.  Excessive generation of homocysteine leads to something called hyper-homocysteinuria, which is very detrimental to the cardiovascular system and even the neurological system.  Over time this could lead to a depletion of several B vitamins, which themselves would have biochemical consequences. This post is about the supplementation with a complex of B vitamins (including a cautionary note) during long-term therapy with carbidopa/levodopa.

“There are living systems; there is no ‘living matter’.” Jacques Monod

A reminder about Parkinson’s, dopamine and carbidopa/levodopa:  Someone with Parkinson’s  has reduced  synthesis of dopamine, an essential neurotransmitter produced by the substantia nigra of the midbrain region. A common medical treatment for Parkinson’s is the replacement of dopamine with its immediate precursor levodopa. Here are some of the key aspects regarding use of carbidopa/levodopa for treating Parkinson’s:

  1. Dopamine does not make it through the blood brain barrier to get to the brain;
  2. Levodopa (also known as L-3,4,-dihydroxyphenylalanine) is an amino acid that can cross the blood brain barrier and then be converted to dopamine;
  3. In the G.I. tract and the bloodstream, levodopa can be converted to dopamine by an enzyme named aromatic-L-amino-acid decarboxylase (DOPA decarboxylase or DDC),  which reduces the amount of levodopa that reaches the brain;
  4.  Carbidopa is a small molecule that prevents DOPA decarboxylase from converting levodopa to dopamine;
  5.  Carbidopa cannot pass through the blood brain barrier;
  6.  The “gold standard” treatment for Parkinson’s is a combination of carbidopa/levodopa, these drugs are commonly known as Sinemet, Sinemet CR, and Parcopa;
  7.  To review, we ingest carbidopa/levodopa, the carbidopa inhibits tissue enzymes that would break down the levodopa, this allows the levodopa to reach the blood-brain barrier, and then get converted to dopamine in the brain.
  8. Important side-note: Levodopa is an amino acid that crosses the blood brain barrier through a molecular amino acid transporter that binds amino acids.  Thus, eating and digestion of a protein-rich meal (also to be broken down to amino acids) either before or with your carbidopa/levodopa dose would competitively lower transport of levodopa across the blood brain barrier.  You should have been advised to take your carbidopa/levodopa doses (i) on an empty stomach, (ii) ~1 hr before eating or (iii) ~1-2 hr after eating (assuming you can tolerate it and the drug doesn’t cause nausea); this would insure your dose of levodopa gets across the blood brain barrier.

Here are the structures of the main players (top-left panel is levodopa; top-right panel is carbidopa; and the most commonly used dose is 25/100 immediate release carbidopa-levodopa (tablet with 25 mg carbidopa and 100 mg levodopa) on the bottom panel.

“The quality of your life is dependent upon the quality of the life of your cells. If the bloodstream is filled with waste products, the resulting environment does not promote a strong, vibrant, healthy cell life-nor a biochemistry capable of creating a balanced emotional life for an individual.” Tony Robbins

What’s the big deal about homocyteine (Hcy)?  Homocysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid formed by demethylation of the essential amino acid methionine. Methionine is first modified to form S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), the direct precursor of Hcy,  This is important because SAM serves as a methyl-group “donor” in almost all biochemical pathways that need methylation (see figure below).  There are pathways that Hcy follows; importantly, the B vitamins of B6, B12 and folic acid are required for proper recycling/processing of Hcy.   An abnormal increase in levels of Hcy says that some disruption of this cycle has occurred.     Elevated Hcy is associated with a wide range of clinical manifestations, mostly affecting the central nervous system. Elevated Hcy has also been associated with an increased risk for atherosclerotic and thrombotic vascular diseases.  The mechanism for how Hcy damages tissues and cells remains under study; however, many favor the notion that excess Hcy increases oxidative stress.  As you might see why from the figure below, Hcy concentrations may increase as a result of deficiency in folate, vitamin B6 or B12. To recap, Hcy is a key biochemical metabolite focused in the essential methyl-donor pathway, whereby successful utilization of Hcy requires a role for complex B vitamins.  By contrast,  there is substantial evidence for a role of elevated Hcy as a disease risk factor for the cardiovascular and central nervous systems.


“We need truth to grow in the same way that we need vitamins, affection and love.” Gary Zukav

Sustained use of carbidopa/levodopa can result in elevated levels of homocysteine: As shown below, one of the reactions on levodopa involves methylation to form a compound named 3-O-methyldopa (3-OMD).   The reaction involves the enzyme catechol-O-methyl-transferase (COMT) and requires SAM as the methyl group donor. There is evidence that plasma Hcy levels are higher in carbidopa/levodopa-treated Parkinson’s patients when compared to controls and untreated Parkinson’s patients.  Interpretation of these results suggest the elevated Hcy levels is due to the drug itself and not from Parkinson’s.


B vitamins (folate, B6, B12) reduce homocysteine produced by carbidopa/levodopa therapy:   Based on the cycle and loops drawn below, they are not strictly one-way in  that theoretically you can drive the reaction in the reverse direction by using an excess amount of folate (NIH fact sheet, click here), vitamin B6 (NIH fact sheet, click here) and vitamin B12 (NIH fact sheet, click here) to reduce levels of Hcy. Folate supplementation was  previously found to reduces Hcy levels when used to treat an older group of people with vascular disease. Using the scheme depicted below as given in the slideshow there are four points I’d like to make:

  1. One might envision the brain is constantly processing a very small amount of levodopa to dopamine throughout the day. By contrast, we take 100’s of         milligram quantities of levodopa several times a day almost as if  we are giving ourselves a bolus of the precursor that reaches the brain. This scheme suggests that L-DOPA + SAM by COMT will produce Hcy; Over time ↑Hcy levels would be generated, leading to hyper-Hcy. Implied by hyper-Hcy is the consumption of B vitamins like folate, B12 and B6; deficiency of these vitamins would contribute to the body being unable to metabolize the excess Hcy.
  2. The folate/vitamin B12 cycle is crucial for DNA synthesis in our body.  This cycle verifies the essential role of folate and vitamin B12 in our diet and demonstrates their function in a key biochemical pathway. This also suggests that making too much Hcy could potentially consume both folate and B12, which would be detrimental to you. By contrast, the cycle also implies that by taking excess  folate and vitamin B12 you might drive the reaction the other direction and reduce the amount of Hcy generated,  and preserve the biochemical integrity of the cycle.
  3.  The processing of HCy is somewhat dependent on vitamin B6.  In the presence of excess Hcy you would consume the vitamin B6 ; however, the cycle also implies in the presence of an excess of vitamin B6 would allow the processing of Hcy further downstream.
  4.  Finally, unrelated to the B vitamins, the addition of N-Acetyl-cysteine (NAC) to the pathway would generate glutathione, which would help consume the excess Hcy  and also generate a very potent antioxidant compound.

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“1914…Dr. Joseph Goldberger had proven that (pellagra) was related to diet, and later showed that it could be prevented by simply eating liver or yeast. But it wasn’t until the 1940’s…that the ‘modern’ medical world fully accepted pellagra as a vitamin B deficiency.” G. Edward Griffin

Beware of taking a huge excess of vitamin B6 in the presence of carbidopa/levodopa, a cautionary tale: I started taking a supplement that had relatively large amounts of complex B vitamins  (specifically the one labeled number two below) had 100% (400 mcg) folate, 1667% (100 mcg) vitamin B12 and 5000% (100 mg) of vitamin B6 (based on daily requirement from our diet).   Over a period of several days I started feeling stiffer, weaker as if  my medicine had stopped treating my Parkinson’s. I especially noticed it one day while playing golf because I had lost significant yardage on my shots, I was breathing heavily, and I was totally out of sync with my golf swing.  Just in general, my entire body was not functioning well.  Timing wise, I was taking the complex B vitamin pill with my early morning carbidopa/levodopa pill on an empty stomach. Something was suddenly (not subtly) wrong with the way I was feeling, and the only new addition to my treatment strategy was this complex B  vitamin pill. There had to be an explanation.


I went home and started thinking like a biochemist, started searching the Internet as an academic scientist, and found the answer in the old archives of the literature.  The older literature says taking more than 15 mg of vitamin B6 daily could compromise the effectiveness of carbidopa to protect levodopa from being activated in the tissues. Thus, I may have been compromising at least one or more doses of levodopa daily by taking 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily.  Let me further say I found that the half-life of vitamin B6 was 55 hours; furthermore, assuming 3L of plasma to absorb the vitamin B6, and a daily dose of 100 mg I plotted the vitamin B6 levels in my bloodstream. The calculation is based on a simple, single compartment elimination model assuming 100% absorbance that happens immediately. The equation is: concentration in plasma (µg/ml vitamin B6) = dose/volume * e^(-k*t) :

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And further inspection of the possible reaction properties between vitamin B6, carbidopa and even levodopa suggests that vitamin B6 could be forming a Schiff Base, which would totally compromise the ability of either compound to function biologically (this is illustrated below).   And I should have known this because some of my earliest publications studied the binding site of various proteins and they were identified using vitamin B6 modifying the amino groups of the proteins (we were mapping heparin-binding sites):

Church, F.C., C.W. Pratt, C.M. Noyes, T. Kalayanamit, G.B. Sherrill, R.B. Tobin, and J.B. Meade (1989) Structural and functional properties of human α-thrombin, phosphopyridoxylated-α-thrombin and γT-thrombin: Identification of lysyl residues in α-thrombin that are critical for heparin and fibrin(ogen) interactions.  J. Biol. Chem. 264: 18419-18425.

Peterson, C.B., C.M. Noyes, J.M. Pecon, F.C. Church and M.N. Blackburn (1987)  Identification of a lysyl residue in antithrombin which is essential for heparin binding.  J. Biol. Chem.  262: 8061-8065.

Whinna, H.C., M.A. Blinder, M. Szewczyk, D.M. Tollefsen and F.C. Church (1991) Role of lysine 173 in heparin binding to heparin cofactor II.  J. Biol. Chem.  266: 8129-813

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“…The Chinese in the 9th century AD utilized a book entitled The Thousand Golden Prescriptions, which described how rice polish could be used to cure beri~beri, as well as other nutritional approaches to the prevention and treatment of disease. It was not until twelve centuries later that the cure for beri~beri was discovered in the West, and it acknowledged to be a vitamin B-1 deficiency disease.” Jeffrey Bland

To take or not to take, complex B vitamin supplementation:  I literally have been writing and working on this post since July; it started as a simple story about the use of complex B vitamins to reduce homocysteine levels as a consequence of chronic carbidopa/levodopa use to manage Parkinson’s.   If you eat a good healthy diet you’re getting plenty of B vitamins. Do you need mega-doses of complex B vitamins? My cautionary note described taking very large amounts of vitamin B6 may be compromising both carbidopa and/or levodopa. You should talk with your Neurologist because it’s straightforward to measure folate, vitamin B6 and B12, and homocysteine levels to see if they are in the normal range if you are taking carbidopa/levodopa. The hidden subplot behind the story is the growing awareness and importance of managing homocysteine levels and also knowing the levels of folate, B6 and B12 to help maintain your neurological health.  Bottom line, if you need it, take a multiple vitamin with only 100 to 200% of your daily need of vitamin B6 (what is shown in panel three and four above). And please be careful if you decide to take a larger dose of vitamin B6 (between 10-100 mg/day).

“A risk-free life is far from being a healthy life. To begin with, the very word “risk” implies worry, and people who worry about every bite of food, sip of water, the air they breathe, the gym sessions they have missed, and the minutiae of vitamin doses are not sending positive signals to their cells. A stressful day sends constant negative messaging to the feedback loop and popping a vitamin pill or choosing whole wheat bread instead of white bread does close to zero to change that.” Deepak Chopra

Cover photo credit:


Diet and Dementia (Cognitive Decline) in the Aging

“When diet is wrong medicine is of no use. When diet is correct medicine is of no need.’’ Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

‘‘What is food to one man may be fierce poison to others.’’ Lucretius (99 B.C.-55 BC).

Précis: Last month in London, England, at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017, there were several presentations focused on diet and the link with dementia/cognitive decline in the elderly population.  Two reports described the effect of specific diets [Mediterranean, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), and NPDP (Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern)] to maintain cognitive function in the aging population. In another study, the MIND diet was shown to reduce dementia in the women from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS).  Finally, it was shown that either the absence or excess of certain vitamins, minerals and other key nutrients could promote neuro-inflammation, which would be detrimental to the brain. This post reviews elements of these presentations.

“One should eat to live, not live to eat.” Moliere

A Healthy Body and Brain Combine Diet, Life-style, and Attitude: It is easy to say what it takes to be healthy; however, approaching/achieving/accomplishing it takes a concerted effort. In a minimal sense, achieving a healthy body and brain unites an efficient diet, an effective lifestyle, and a positive attitude.  Thus, a healthy body and brain requires a collective approach to living properly (and it helps to have good genes).

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

Inflammation and Parkinson’s: One of the many suggested causes of Parkinson’s is neuro-inflammation (see figure below).  The impact of diet promoting inflammation and cognitive decline in the aging population got my interest.  The combination of eating too much of ‘bad’ foodstuff with too little of some ‘good’ food components somehow promotes neuro-inflammation that contributes to the development of dementia. If the goal of my blog is related to Parkinson’s, what is the goal of this particular post? To present the notion that detrimental effects of neuro-inflammation could diminish brain function. And it’s this ‘possibility’ that makes the story relevant to this blog because neuro-inflammation is linked to the development of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Therefore, the specific pathway to how you develop that inflammation of the brain is relevant and an important topic.


“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Diet Linked to Neuro-inflammation: There’s an old phrase “You Are What You Eat”, which simply means it’s critical to eat good food in order to stay healthy and fit. Building on solid evidence that eating well is brain healthy, researchers are beginning to explore mechanisms through which dietary mechanisms may influence cognitive status and dementia risk. Dr. Gu and colleagues (Columbia University, New York) examined whether an inflammation-related nutrient pattern (INP) was associated with changes in cognitive function and structural changes in the brain. Gu, Y., et al. (An Inflammatory Nutrient Pattern Is Associated Both Structural and Cognitive Measures of Brain Aging in the Elderly) presented a follow-up study to earlier work using brain scans (MRI) combined with levels of inflammatory makers [C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6)] and cognitive function studies of >300 community-dwelling elderly people who were non-demented.

They created what was termed an “InflammatioN-related Pattern (INP) where increased levels of CRP and IL-6 were found in participants with low dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium, folate and several water- and fat-soluble vitamins (including B1, B2, B5, B6, D, and E) and increased consumption of cholesterol, beta-carotene and lutein. The INP was derived from a 61-item food frequency questionnaire that the study participants answered about their food intake during the past year. Study participants with this ‘INP-diet-pattern’ also had poorer executive function scores and smaller total brain gray matter volume compared to study participants with a healthier diet.  The strength of the study was the scientific precision and methodology; however, it was not directly comparing one diet to another.  Further studies are needed to verify the role of diet to induce neuro-inflammation-related changes in dementia (cognitive health).  Furthermore, mechanistic insight is needed to understand how a diet with either an absence or an excess of certain nutritional components promotes neuro-inflammation to alter brain function and structure. Their results imply that a poor diet promotes dementia and smaller brain volume in the aging brain through a neuro-inflammatory process.

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” Ann Wigmore

What is Good for Your Heart is Good for Your Brain: The Mediterranean diet, a diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, is usually thought to confer healthy-heart benefits. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was developed to help improve cardiovascular health, especially hypertension. The DASH diet is simple: eat more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods; cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats; eat more whole-grain foods, fish, poultry, and nuts; and limit sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and red meats. Neurologists have merged the two diets, creating the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet; testing the hypothesis that if it’s good for the heart it will be good for the brain.   The MIND diet is gaining attention for its potential positive effects on preserving cognitive function and reducing dementia risk in older individuals. In an earlier study, Morris et al. (Alzheimer’s Dement. 2015; 11:1015-22) found that  individuals on the MIND diet showed less cognitive decline as they aged.

Moving to 2017, Dr. McEvoy and colleagues (University of California, San Francisco) studied ~6000 older adults in the Health and Retirement Study. They showed that the study participants who followed either the MIND or the Mediterranean diets were more likely to maintain strong cognitive function in old age (McEvoy, C., et al. Neuroprotective Dietary Patterns Are Associated with Better Cognitive Performance in Older US Adults: The Health and Retirement Study). Their results also showed that study participants with either of these healthier diets had significant retention of cognitive function.

The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” Thomas A. Edison

The Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (NPDP) Protects Cognitive Function: The NPDP includes both more frequent and less frequent food consumption categories: More frequent consumption of non-root vegetables, apple/pears/peaches, pasta/rice, poultry, fish, vegetable oils, tea and water, and light to moderate wine intake; Less frequent intake of root vegetables, refined grains/cereals, butter/margarine, sugar/sweets/pastries, and fruit juice. Dr. Xu and colleagues (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden) studied the relationship of diet to cognitive function in >2,200 dementia-free community-dwelling adults in Sweden (Xu,W., et al. Which Dietary Index May Predict Preserved Cognitive Function in Nordic Older Adults). During six years of evaluation, they reported that study participants with moderate loyalty to the NPDP had better cognitive function compared to study participants who deviated more frequently from the NPDP.  The scientists noted that, in the Scandinavian population studied, the NPDP was better at maintaining cognitive function compared to other diets (Mediterranean, MIND, DASH, and Baltic Sea).

“The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.” Gilbert K. Chesterton

Women on the MIND Diet are Less Likely to Develop Dementia: Dr. Hayden and colleagues (Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina) studied diet and dementia in >7,000 participants from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) (Hayden, K., et al. The Mind Diet and Incident Dementia, Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study).   The study showed that older women who followed the MIND diet were less likely to develop dementia. These results were obtained by stratification of the WHIMS  participants from very likely to very unlikely to adhere to the MIND diet; they were  assessed for almost 10 years.  Their results imply that it may not require drastic diet changes to help preserve the aging brain.

“It’s not about eating healthy to lose weight. It’s about eating healthy to feel good.” Demi Lovato

Diet and Dementia in the Aging Brain: Four different studies with similar results; diet can  influence dementia and cognitive function in the aging brain.  The single most important finding in these studies was simply that a good diet helps maintain a healthy brain. Strong evidence was presented in three of the studies that the Mediterranean, the MIND and NPBP are excellent diets to help maintain cognitive function as we age.  Mechanistic studies to further demonstrate the link of dietary components with an increase in neuro-inflammation  would be most interesting. A confounding issue is that overall health and a healthy brain are more than just diet alone.  To reduce the chance of cognitive decline and dementia, it’s important to remember as we get older to protect our brain by eating well, exercise regularly, and exercise our brain by becoming lifelong learners (see Word Cloud below).


“The older I get, the more vegetables I eat. I can’t stress that more. Eating healthy really affects my work. You not only need to be physically prepared, but mentally and spiritually.” James Badge Dale

 Cover photo credit:  C.J. Reuland



7 Healthy Habits For Your Brain

   “Your brain – every brain – is a work in progress. It is ‘plastic.’ From the day we’re born to the day we die, it continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it.” Michael Merzenich

“The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together.” Kurdish Saying

7 Basic Brain Facts [click here for more facts]: (1) The typical brain is ~2% of your total weight but it uses 20% of your total energy and oxygen intake. (2) >100,000 chemicals reactions/sec occur in your brain. (3) The latest estimate is that our brains contain ~86 billion brain cells. (4) In contrast to the popular belief that we use ~10% of our brains; brain scans show we use most of our brain most of the time. (5) There are as many as 10,000 specific types of neurons in the brain.  (6) Cholesterol is an integral part of every brain cell. Twenty-five percent of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain. (7) Your brain generates between 12-25 watts of electricity, which is enough to power a low wattage LED light.

7 Healthy Habits for Your Brain: With or without Parkinson’s disease, taking care of your brain is all-important to your overall well-being, life-attitude, and health. These are  straightforward suggestions of healthy habits for your brain; hopefully, this list will serve as a reminder about their importance.  Here is a 1-page summary of the “7 Healthy Habits for Your Brain” (Click here to download file).


[1] Exercise and neuroplasticity:
  Exercise is almost like a soothing salve for your brain.  Some benefits of exercise include helping your memory and increased flow of oxygen to brain, which energizes the brain.  Exercise is good for both your heart and your brain. Exercise can reduce inflammation in the brain and increase hormones circulating to your brain.  For a brief overview on the benefits of exercise to your brain, click here.

Neuroplasticity is the ability to re-draw, re-wire the connections in your brain. What this means is that neuroplasticity is a concerted attempt of neurons to compensate for brain injury/disease. Neuroplasticity ultimately modifies your brain’s activities in response to changes in these neuronal-environments.

There is much positive evidence in animal models of Parkinson’s regarding exercise-induced neuroplasticity.  The same benefits are now being tested in humans with Parkinson’s and the results are most encouraging. One of the numerous backlogged blog drafts that will be completed in the near-future is a “Review of Exercise and Neuroplasticity in Parkinson’s”.

“Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being.” John Ratey

“Neuroplasticity research showed that the brain changes its very structure with each different activity it performs, perfecting its circuits so it is better suited to the task at hand.” Naveen Jain

[2] Diet and brain food: Your memory is aided by ‘what’ you eat.  Harvard’s Women Health Watch makes the following suggestion to boost your memory through diet (click here to read entire article): “The Mediterranean diet includes several components that might promote brain health: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging stroke; Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the blood and better vascular health; Moderate alcohol consumption raises levels of healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Alcohol also lowers our cells’ resistance to insulin, allowing it to lower blood sugar more effectively. Insulin resistance has been linked to dementia.”  WebMD summarized the role of diet and brain health in “Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain” (click here to read article).

A large group of women (>13,000 participants) over the age of 70 were studied and the results showed that the women who ate the most vegetables had the greater mental agility (click here to read the article). These results suggest for a healthy brain we should eat colorful fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants; and foods rich in natural vitamin E, vitamin C, B (B6, B12) folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, we should avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. In small amounts, vitamin D3 is almost like candy for your brain.

“Hunger, prolonged, is temporary madness! The brain is at work without its required food, and the most fantastic notions fill the mind.” Jules Verne

“Everything one reads is nourishment of some sort – good food or junk food – and one assumes it all goes in and has its way with your brain cells.” Lorrie Moore

[3] Mindfulness/meditation: Greater Good (The Science of a Meaningful Life) describes mindfulness as “…maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment.”  I recently described mindfulness as “Mindfulness means you stay within your breath, and focus within yourself, with no remembrance of the past minute and no planning for the future moment.”  Here’s a simple mindfulness experience/moment: simply be aware of the steam leaving your morning cup of coffee/tea, clear your immediate thoughts, then sip, focus and savor this moment.

“The picture we have is that mindfulness practice increases one’s ability to recruit higher order, pre-frontal cortex regions in order to down-regulate lower-order brain activity,” a comment from Dr. Adrienne Taren, a researcher studying mindfulness at the University of Pittsburgh. She also said  “it’s the disconnection of our mind from its ‘stress center’ that seems to give rise to a range of physical as well as mental health benefits.”  (Click here to read this article).  “What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?” (click here to read more)

“Mindfulness practices enhance the connection between our body, our mind and everything else that is around us.” Nhat Hanh

“Mindfulness is a pause — the space between stimulus and response: that’s where choice lies.” Tara Brach

 [4] Stress reduction: When you are under constant or chronic stress your body makes more of the steroid hormone cortisol (a glucocorticoid), which is produced by the adrenal glands above your kidneys.  Over time, chronic stress can trigger changes in brain structure and function. Excess cortisol production reduces neuronal cells, over-produces myelin protective covering to our nerves, and we make more oligodendrocytes.  How do you reduce chronic stress?  Exercise and mindfulness/meditation are both able to lower cortisol levels.  Easier said then done to making life-style changes to reduce chronic stress; however, doing it will allow the neuroplastic process to begin re-wiring your brain. For an overview of stress and trying to manage/reduce chronic stress, click here.

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.” Natalie Goldberg

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Mahatma Gandhi

[5] Work, keep active mentally:  There are 2 sides to this topic.  First, stay engaged at work and you won’t age as fast as someone disengaged.  What I’m trying to say is simply staying active mentally at work will assist your brain during the ageing process.  Keep your brain stimulated with work, thought, challenges; the effort provides your brain with significant growth.  Your reward will be an active-focused and rejuvenated mind.  Second, by contrast, we’re all working long hours balancing too many tasks, all-the-time; ultimately, we’re trying to multi-task when we really can’t multi-task very well.  In a nice article entitled “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time“, Tony Schwartz summarized a key problem: “It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time. What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries.”  As you balance the 2-sides-of-the-topic, focus your energy on the first-side by performing each individual task/topic; clear your mind, keep your brain engaged, focus hard and then let your brain renew.

“To let the brain work without sufficient material is like racing an engine. It racks itself to pieces.” Arthur Conan Doyle

“A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton

 [6] Positive and happy is better for your brain:  I truly believe you need to be positive in dealing with Parkinson’s; trying to focus on staying happy will benefit all-around you and bolster your brain’s health. Using positivity will allow you to creatively handle many obstacles ahead, whether in the absence or presence of Parkinson’s.  Susan Reynolds summarized in “Happy Brain, Happy Life” that being happy: “stimulates the growth of nerve connections; improves cognition by increasing mental productivity; improves your ability to analyze and think; affects your view of surroundings; increases attentiveness; and leads to more happy thoughts.”  On the notion of staying positive, she said: “…thinking positive, happy, hopeful, optimistic, joyful thoughts decreases cortisol and produces serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. This helps your brain function at peak capacity.”


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

“You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body.” Shawn Achor

[7] Sleep: It’s simple; our brains, our bodies need sleep.  Many of us battle with less than adequate daily sleep habits.  However, it’s really simple; our brains, our bodies need sleep.  Much of our day’s success resides in the quality of sleep the night before.  The science of sleep is complex but much of it revolves around our brain.  We use sleep to renew and de-fragment our brain; and sleep helps strengthen our memory.  For more details on sleep science, please look over “What Happens in the Brain During Sleep?” (click here).  Alice G. Walton very nicely summarized several aspects of the sleep-brain interactions focusing on the following 7 headings: “Sleep helps solidify memory; Toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are cleared during sleep; Sleep is necessary for cognition; Creativity needs sleep; Sleep loss and depression are  intertwined; Physical health and longevity; and Kids need their sleep” [click here for “7 Ways Sleep Affects The Brain (And What Happens If It Doesn’t Get Enough)”].  Finally, the Rand Corp. just released a comprehensive study on sleep and the economic burden being caused by the lack of sleep (click here to read the 100-page report).

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.Thomas Dekker

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.   Irish Proverb

A Personal Reflection on the “7 Healthy Habits for Your Brain”:  My fall semester is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining; and I cherish doing all of these tasks, I really do.  The writing of this blog is a deliberate attempt to remind me what I need to be doing, to re-initiate tomorrow in my daily life.  I could explain each point in detail in what poor-brain-health-habits I’ve developed this semester (but I won’t).  However, I am printing out the 1-page handout of 7-healthy-brain-habits to keep it with me as I spend the rest of December re-establishing effective habits for my brain; and doing a better job of balancing work with life-love-fun.

“Your body, which is bonding millions of molecules every second, depends on transformation. Breathing and digestion harness transformation. Food and air aren’t just shuffled about but, rather, undergo the exact chemical bonding needed to keep you alive. The sugar extracted from an orange travels to the brain and fuels a thought. The emergent property in this case is the newness of the thought; no molecules in the history of the universe ever combined to produce that exact thought.” Deepak Chopra

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Mindfulness list: