We’re ruining our brains and lowering our IQs by simply doing seven things that are very bad for them.  Things we could correct easily, but generally don’t think about.

Eating big breakfastForget the brain training programmes and the educational lectures on Radio 4.  Well, perhaps the educational programmes could stay!  They don’t do any harm, after all, and might be doing a teeny weeny bit of good by building cognitive capacity!

These are the things that are eroding your brain.  Needlessly.

  • Eating too much saturated fat.  Too much is not only bad for your cardiovascular system, but can damage your neuronal circuits and even lead to a mild addiction, according to a study released by the University of Montreal this month. [i][ii].   Time to pull back from the full English breakfast!
  • Keeping too many plates spinning at the same time. We’re not wired to multi-task, says Earl Miller, neuroscientist at MIT.  I’m not sure about this one.  If I hadn’t been able to cook and listen out for two boisterous boys when they were little they’d have drowned in the garden pool.   But it does explain why using a phone and driving at the same time can be fatal.
  •  Googling instead of remembering the data. Googling is messing with your mind patterns, according to researchers at Research at Columbia University.  Now we remember where we stored the information rather than the information itself.  Also, our attention spans are shorter than they were. [iii]
  • Eating too much fructose. Sugars are not all the same, and fructose, from fruits, is not the best for you.  Read more here:  http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/difference-between-sucrose-glucose-fructose-8704.html.  But take heart! Omega 3s act as a good counter-action and prevent damage to your brain.
  • Watching ‘mindless’ TV makes you dopey. It’s true.  Markus Appel, a psychologist at Austria’s University of Linz, conducted a study with 81 people.  Their answers to simple questions after they watched a ‘dumb’ programme were notably poorer than previously. [iv]
  •  Jet Lag and Sleep Disturbances.  Well, I think we knew that already.  Anyone who’s flown the ‘red eye’ knows you’re in a ‘zone’ until you have a good night’s sleep.  But people who regularly lose sleep are at risk:  studies on hamsters found that regular disruption to our normal our day-night patterns halved the normal rate of new neuron birth in the hippocampus (the area of the brain dealing with memory processing) and the effects were still noticeable a month after the last disruption.[v]
  •  Walking and Chewing Gum.  It’s a  horrible habit and about time people stopped doing it anyway.  It used to be thought that the exercise of chewing increased blood flow to the brain – not at all evident from observing those who were doing it.  Turns out it’s not at all, according to Dr Sarah Brewer, a specialist in nutrition.

 So, on the basis that every little helps – go easy on the fats; concentrate on one thing at a time, remember instead of Googling it each time, be mean with the fructose, don’t watch mindless TV, be regular with your sleep (and make sure you get enough of it!), and don’t chew gum.

A bright minionSee you all at the next MENSA meeting!

[i] http://www.medicaldaily.com/your-brain-fried-eggs-saturated-fat-diet-dulls-dopamine-system-impairs-cognitive-342826

[ii] http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20150714-this-is-your-brain-on-fried-eggs.html

[iii] http://www.livescience.com/15044-internet-google-influence-learning-memory.html

[iv] http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/06/17/6851542-watching-jersey-shore-might-make-you-dumber-study-suggests?lite

[v] http://berkeleysciencereview.com/read/fall-2011/red-eye-science/


Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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