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The Parkinson’s risk lurking in your summer fruit

From peaches and plums… to cherries and berries… there’s an abundant harvest of summer produce hitting stores right about now.

And there’s nothing like biting into sweet, juicy summer fruit picked at its peak — and letting that juice drip down your chin.

It not only tastes great — you know that the nutrients and antioxidants in the season’s brightly colored fruits and veggies are a boon for your health.

But if you’re not buying ORGANIC, all of that goodness may be laced with something rather unsavory.

Toxic pesticides!

According to a new study, once those chemicals make their way into your body, they can harm the delicate cells in your brain — sending your risk of Parkinson’s disease through the roof.

As I’ve shared with you before, I attribute my own Parkinson’s diagnosis to toxic exposure. I wish I’d known then what I know now.

And trust me — it can happen to you, too.

In the study, Canadian researchers exposed cells to two common pesticides — paraquat and maneb — in the lab.

Now, these weren’t just any old cells — they were dopamine-producing neurons, which are the very same cells that are affected in those with Parkinson’s.

And these particular neurons were grown in the lab from the stem cells of folks who’d already had Parkinson’s, so they contained a genetic mutation that’s known to predispose you to the disease.

As soon as the pesticides came into contact with these neurons, they prevented the cells’ energy-producing mitochondria from doing their jobs, meaning that the cells essentially shut themselves down.

And we know that when your brain’s dopamine-producing neurons die, you’re looking at the tremors and stiffness of Parkinson’s.

The feds will tell you that paraquat and maneb are perfectly safe at low levels. But in the study, these pesticides impaired the cells at doses well BELOW the threshold deemed dangerous by the EPA.

And here’s the real shocker: The study concluded that people exposed to even small amounts of these pesticides have a whopping 250 percent greater risk of developing Parkinson’s than those who have no exposure.

Yikes!

Of course, if you don’t have the genetic mutation involved in the study, your brain cells may be better able to withstand low-level pesticide exposure.

But there’s no way of knowing this until it’s too late.

Why roll the dice by eating sprayed produce?
Even if you dodge Parkinson’s, we know that paraquat can also cause kidney, lung, and liver damage. In fact, it’s so deadly that it’s banned in Europe!
So, to spare yourself from swallowing these lethal toxins, buy certified-organic produce, which is never doused in chemicals, whenever possible.

And that’s especially true for summer favorites like nectarines, peaches, cherries, and tomatoes , which are on the Environmental Working Group’s most-likely-to-be-contaminated “Dirty Dozen” list.

Buying organic may cost a little more, but just think of it as an insurance policy for your brain!

Use your legs… or lose your brain!

When I tell patients to “exercise,” it tends to make them run… straight for the door!

And believe me, I understand why.

When you’re on the older side, all of that huffing, puffing, and sweating can feel like a real chore.

But exercising doesn’t have to mean joining a gym or even “working out.” Because according to a new study, all you’ve got to do to reap one of the best benefits of physical activity is move your legs.

Turns out, using the major muscles in your lower half is essential for maintaining the health of your BRAIN!

In the study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers restricted a group of mice from using their hind legs — but not their front legs — for a month.

The mice ate and groomed normally, and they showed no physiological signs of stress.

But by the end of the study, when the researchers examined the mice’s brains, they found that the “subventricular zone” — an area in the brain that’s crucial for maintaining nerve cell health — was in big trouble.

Compared to a group of control mice who roamed freely on all fours, the restricted mice had 70 percent FEWER neural stem cells in this area of their brains. And since stem cells eventually mature into the neurons that make up your gray matter, that means cutting back on exercise could SHRINK your brain over time.

Now, as I’ve shared with you in the past, everyone’s brains shrink somewhat as we age — but if your brain shrinks a LOT, you’re at a higher risk of cognitive decline or something more serious, like Alzheimer’s.

And while exercise that engages all parts of your body — from yoga to pumping iron — can beef up your brain, the study reveals that there’s something special about keeping your legs active.

The theory is that activating the big muscles in your legs sends direct signals to your brain to produce more healthy cells.

What’s more, the study found that restricting the mice’s legs LOWERED the amount of oxygen in their bodies — and we know that having enough oxygen is crucial for your brain to function.

So, if you want to stay sharp as a tack, USE your legs… or risk LOSING your brain!

Any form of activity that uses your legs — from running and walking to tennis or dancing — will do the trick.

But you don’t need an official form of “exercise” to reap the benefits.

Taking the stairs instead of the escalator… doing some gardening… or even playing with your grandkids can keep you on your toes.

The ancient Chinese secret that can sharpen your brain

It scrambles your memory… leaves you dazed and confused… and can even alter your personality.

No, it’s not one of those “funny cigarettes” that your friends tried to get you to smoke in the ’60s.

I’m talking about the changes that occur in your brain as you age.

But according to a new study, it’s not a life sentence – because all you’ve got to do to shield your gray matter from these changes is turn over a new “leaf.”
That is, the leaves of an ancient Chinese tree called ginkgo biloba can perk up your brain!

You’ve surely heard of ginkgo before — it’s one of nature’s most powerful memory-boosters.

We already know that ginkgo can help improve the quality of your memories. You could even say that it can “turbo-charge” your mind – even if it’s become like a sieve as you’ve added candles to your birthday cake.

That’s right — it can become a steel trap again!

And since Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using ginkgo as an herbal remedy for centuries, it’s no wonder that the new study was conducted in China!
In this latest study, researchers sifted through oodles of previous findings to figure out HOW ginkgo guards your brain.

And it appears as though there are at least three mechanisms at work here.

For one, it looks like ginkgo can cool your brain off in times of stress. Not only that, but it also helps prevent damage when stress occurs (as it inevitably does).
And all the while, ginkgo keeps that gray matter clean and clear of gunk – which helps you to think clearly AND stay focused!

So, if you want to chase those “brain burps” away, give this ancient herb a try.

You can easily find ginkgo biloba in supplement form at your local health food store or online.

I’ve also included it in my latest breakthrough formula, along with two other “neuro nutrients” that can help you practically regrow a new brain!

You see, ginkgo is great on its own — but if you’re a little on the older side, your brain has been shrinking at least since you turned the big 6-0. And that means that you may need a little more help than ginkgo alone.

I first shared the news of my breakthrough last week, and the response has been so incredible that I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep up with the demand. I don’t want you to miss out on it, so click here to find out how to reclaim your precious memories and form new ones that are crystal clear.

Crunch into this ‘brain food’

As a kid, you may have hidden it under your mashed potatoes… and as an adult, you probably still skip it at the salad bar.

Broccoli is the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables — it gets no respect!

But no matter how often you’ve pushed those crunchy green stalks to the side of your plate, you may want to give this veggie a second chance.

I’ve shared with you before how a compound found in broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) called “sulforaphane” can help you beat back everything from diabetes to multiple kinds of cancer.

And now, a new study shows that sulforaphane is just as good for your BRAIN as it is for your body — because it can guard your gray matter against the brain changes of Alzheimer’s.

In the study, Chinese researchers gave sulforaphane to mice who’d been genetically altered to progressively develop Alzheimer’s as they aged.

Now, we know that Alzheimer’s disease in both mice and men is linked to the buildup of a protein called beta-amyloid (a.k.a. “plaques”) in key areas of the brain related to learning and memory.

So, we’d expect that the altered mice in the study would develop plaques in their brains alongside cognitive impairment after four months’ time. But that didn’t happen to the mice that got the sulforaphane.

Not only was there NO buildup of beta-amyloid, but the treated mice had the SAME cognitive function as mice the same age that weren’t predisposed to developing Alzheimers.

Imagine – something that could prevent cognitive decline even when you’re supposedly “doomed” to experience it!

The theory is that the powerful antioxidant properties of sulforaphane can guard your delicate nerve cells from the kind of neuroinflammation and oxidative stress that sets the stage for Alzheimer’s brain changes.

What’s more, sulforaphane’s anti-inflammatory power has also been shown to do everything from keeping your blood vessels healthy to warding off arthritis in your joints .

So, if you want to prevent those “flames” from ravaging your body AND your brain, pile up your plate with broccoli!

You can add it to stir-fry… roast it with garlic and lemon… or bake it with parmesan to punch up the flavor.

But if broccoli just isn’t your bag, you can get the same amount of sulforaphane from cruciferous cousins like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage — although those alternatives may sound about as appealing as broccoli itself.

Arugula, kale, turnips, radishes, and watercress are also in the cruciferous family and may be more pleasing to your palate.

But if nothing can sway you to eat your cruciferous veggies, you can pick up sulforaphane supplements at your local health food store or online.

What one sleepless night does to your brain

You can’t think straight… your concentration is shot… and you fumble your way through the day’s details.

When you haven’t gotten your 40 winks the night before, it can feel like your brain is asleep on the job!

And if you toss and turn night after night — like HALF of all adults over 60 do — that “brain drain” could set you up for something even more serious.

We’ve known for a while that not getting enough time in a deep-sleep phase known as REM (a.k.a. “rapid eye movement”) increases your chances of developing dementia.

And now, a new study suggests why: Sleep deprivation can boost a protein in your brain that’s linked to Alzheimer’s.

As I’ve shared with you before, it’s called “beta-amyloid” – and it turns out that all it takes is ONE night of poor sleep for levels of this protein to rise!

In the study, National Institutes of Health researchers scanned the brains of healthy folks both after a night of restful sleep AND after they’d been awake for about 30 hours.

Levels of beta-amyloid in the participants’ brains were 5 percent HIGHER after the sleepless night than they were after the restful night.

Now, that may not sound like much of an increase… but if you’ve got chronic insomnia, all that extra beta-amyloid could really add up over time.

You see, beta-amyloid is actually a metabolic waste product — and the theory is that deep sleep allows your brain to clear it out before it has a chance to settle in.

That means that when you don’t sleep soundly, it’s like you’ve missed your daily “trash pickup”… allowing this metabolic “garbage” to pile up!

And we know that when excess beta-amyloid collects in your gray matter, it can form the “plaques” and “tangles” we see in the brains of people with full-blown Alzheimer’s.

What’s more, the study showed that the extra beta-amyloid was found mostly in the thalamus and the hippocampus — two brain areas that are especially vulnerable to damage in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Now, here’s the kicker: While not sleeping enough can increase beta-amyloid, having excess beta-amyloid in your brain makes sleep troubles more likely.

So, you want to nip your insomnia in the bud… BEFORE it sets off this vicious cycle.

Just don’t pop a sleeping pill, which can only increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Instead, try some natural ways to get more shut-eye:

• Create good habits: Getting regular exercise, avoiding caffeine too late in the day, and limiting your exposure to TV and electronics close to bedtime can help coax your body into slumber.

• Reset your “clock”: Since your levels of melatonin — the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle — decline with age, try supplementing with melatonin or drinking melatonin-rich tart cherry juice.

• Turn to herbs: Studies have shown that ashwagandha, valerian root, kava extract, and even chamomile tea can induce all sleep without side effects.

And I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t mention that getting some exercise is a great way to relieve stress (which can help you sleep), speed up the process of “taking out the trash” both in your brain and the rest of your body, and make sure that you’re plumb tuckered out by the time you hit the hay!

Good for your bones… but bad for your BRAIN?

If you’ve been reading my eTips for a while, you know that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s over a dozen years ago.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep the disease from progressing with diet, exercise, and DETOX — because we know that toxins from pesticides and other environmental sources are a major trigger of Parkinson’s disease.

And now, surprising new research suggests that a nutrient we usually consider to be a cornerstone of good health may become toxic if too much of it winds up in your brain.

I’m talking about CALCIUM!

Now, we don’t know exactly what gets the ball rolling on Parkinson’s, but we do know that the disease is linked to an abnormal buildup of a protein called “alpha-synuclein” inside nerve cells in your brain.

In the study, University of Cambridge researchers looked through a super-strong microscope at the impossibly tiny sacs (a.k.a. “vesicles”) at the ends of those nerve cells.

And they saw that when levels of calcium increased inside the cells, alpha-synuclein started to build up.

It stuck to the vesicles… and made the vesicles stick to one another… setting the stage for those abnormal Parkinson’s deposits.

Now, your brain needs SOME calcium in order to function properly, because it plays a vital role in how nerve cells communicate with one another. And as you know full well, the mineral is also essential for strong bones and heart health.

But these results suggest that there can be too much of a good thing — and many factors can send your calcium levels dangerously high.

Consuming a lot of low-fat dairy products is one potential culprit. You see, calcium isn’t found in the fatty portion of the milk, so when the fat is removed, the remaining milk has concentrated levels of calcium.

And previous studies have shown that people who eat three or more servings of low-fat dairy products each day are nearly 35 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who don’t even eat one!

To hit the sweet spot with your calcium intake, choose full-fat dairy over low-fat and/or look to natural sources like broccoli, leafy greens, almonds, and sardines.

Another common culprit in calcium overload is an overactive thyroid, so you want to get your thyroid hormones checked every year.

Being a chronic couch potato can cause your bones to release calcium into your blood — as can taking certain blood pressure meds and taking too much vitamin D without pairing it with enough magnesium.

Aim to get some exercise at least twice weekly… and talk to a doc who is well-versed in integrative medicine about the right dosages of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium supplements for you.

This miracle mineral acts as a ‘power switch’ for vitamin D

March is sure going out like a lion, isn’t it? We had SNOW here in the Boston area just a few days ago!

After a seemingly never-ending winter, the sunnier skies of spring are sure going to be a welcome change — at least, once they finally get here.

And once you finally get to catch some of those spring rays, it won’t just brighten your outlook — it’ll also boost the levels of an essential vitamin in your body.

I’m talking about vitamin D, a.k.a. “the sunshine vitamin”!

Your body makes D when UV rays hit your skin — and you need it for everything from strong bones to a healthy immune system.

But according to the latest research, all of the spring sunshine in the world won’t net you enough D to get the job done if you’re deficient in something else — MAGNESIUM!

A new meta-analysis reviewed all available studies to date on the relationship between vitamin D and magnesium. And it turns out that all of the enzymes needed to “metabolize” vitamin D (in other words, to make it available for use in your body) require sufficient levels of magnesium.

That means that without enough magnesium in your system, any D you take in will simply sit “in storage” in your body… INACTIVE!

To put another way: You can take vitamin D supplements every day and STILL be deficient in D if you lack sufficient magnesium.

And that may actually make vitamin D supplementation dangerous — because high levels of inactive D increase your calcium and phosphate levels, putting you at risk for “calcification” (a.k.a. hardening) of your arteries.

Beyond its role in activating D, magnesium also partners D in the delicate processes that protect your bones, heart, and organs.

On its own, magnesium is essential for a wide range of functions in your body, from promoting a good night’s sleep to easing anxiety.

The bottom line is that you can’t skimp on either one.

But a lot of folks do — because nearly half of us are deficient in vitamin D, and a whopping 80 percent of us simply don’t get enough magnesium in our diets.

You can boost your magnesium levels by loading up on magnesium-rich foods like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, and avocado. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines will also up your stores of vitamin D, as will egg yolks and mushrooms.

But because it becomes harder for our bodies to absorb either of these nutrients from food (and, in the case of D, from sunlight) as we age, you should also consider taking high-quality supplements.

Many multivitamins contain enough D and magnesium to cover your bases. Read the labels closely and look for magnesium lactate and magnesium aspartate — which are the forms most easily absorbed by your body — and the natural vitamin D3 (rather than the synthetic D2).

How this weird sea creature can protect your brain

If you’ve been reading my eTips for a while now, you know how important omega-3 fatty acids are.

Specifically, the omega-3s DHA and EPA are some of the most powerful anti-inflammatories that you can find in nature.

They can boost your heart health… improve diseases from diabetes to Parkinson’s… and even guard your brain from Alzheimer’s.

Now, you might think that the best — or even the only — way to get your DHA and EPA is by taking fish oil supplements.

But according to a new study, there’s another kind of oil you should know about if you want to protect your brain.

And it’s from a shellfish called krill!

Now, if you’re not familiar with krill, they’re shrimp-like crustaceans that tend to favor the cold waters off Antarctica. And though they’re TINY in size, their oil is MIGHTY when it comes to your brain health.

In a study out of China, researchers induced Alzheimer’s in mice and then supplemented their diets with krill oil.

By the end of the study, the mice performed better on learning and memory tests than they had before receiving the krill oil.

That means that the oil actually REVERSED some of their cognitive deficits!

When the researchers studied the mice’s brains closely to determine why that might be, they found that the krill oil had reduced the accumulation of something called “amyloid” in the mice’s hippocampi, the parts of our brains that play a

key role in both short- and long-term memory.

And since previous research has shown that amyloid “plaques” and “tangles” are a signature sign of Alzheimer’s damage, anything that can chip away at them is a major boon!

Now, I recently shared with you that INFLAMMATION is what gets the ball rolling on amyloid deposits in your gray matter.

And we know that the DHA and EPA in krill oil can help snuff out those flames. In fact, there’s some evidence that krill oil may be MORE effective at raising your levels of DHA and EPA than even fish oil!

That’s because most of the omega-3s in krill oil are found in molecules called phospholipids, which may be easier for your body to absorb than triglycerides, where most of fish oil’s omega-3s are stored.

So, if want to hold onto your precious memories, why not give krill oil a try?

Of course, you won’t find any krill at your local seafood buffet. The biggest consumers of it are whales — not people!

But krill oil supplements are readily available at health-food stores and online. Look for a brand that sources its krill straight from Antarctica.

I should note that krill oil also contains astaxanthin, the same powerful antioxidant that gives salmon and shrimp their pink color and has been proven to ease inflammation and oxidative stress.

And if you need yet another reason to ramp up your intake of astaxanthin, I’ve got some good news for you in tomorrow’s eTips.

Inactivity shrinks your brain and boosts dementia risk

Could sitting around make your brain cells DIE?

Use it or lose it.

That old saying may sound trite — but when it comes to staying spry as we age, nothing could be truer.

You can’t keep up your tennis game if you rarely play… or be the toast of the dance floor if you don’t stay on your toes.

And to stay sharp as a tack, you’ve got to keep challenging your brain, too.

Because according to a new study, if you don’t “use” your body… you could literally “lose” your mind.

Well… at least a very key part of it.

In a study out of the University of Texas, researchers scanned the brains of older folks — some of whom had memory loss or mild cognitive impairment — and measured their fitness levels with an “oxygen uptake” test.

Researchers also assessed brain function by giving participants a bunch of memory and cognitive tests, and they found something alarming: The lower the participants’ physical fitness levels, the more that their brains had wasted away!

Specifically, it was something called the “white matter” in their brains.

Now, I’ve shared plenty about your “gray matter” with you in the past, but this part of your brain is different — it refers to the millions of bundles of nerve fibers that you have in your brain that help neurons in different areas communicate with one another.

And here’s the kicker: The thinner the participants’ white matter, the lower their cognitive function.

This means that PHYSICAL inactivity could chip away at your MENTAL abilities!

The results also help explain why everything from light activity to heavy weight lifting has been shown to slash your risk of cognitive decline.

The theory is that exercise gets blood flowing to every nook and cranny of your brain AND “beefs up” its thickness in key areas — both of which are known to keep your mind sharp.

And if there’s anything in your body you want to be THICK, it’s your BRAIN!

Staying active keeps your blood pressure in check, too, lowering your risk of dementia.

ANYTHING that gets you up and moving — even just tending your garden or walking the dog — can perk up your brain.

But in the study, “cardiorespiratory fitness” was key, which means that if you can do some aerobic activity that gets your heart and lungs pumping, you’ll reap even more brain benefits.

You can try brisk walking… jogging… bicycling… ballroom dancing — whatever floats your boat!

Plus, when you work up a sweat, you also get rid of toxins… so less wind up between your ears!

It’s ideal to aim for about 30 minutes of activity, five times a week, but you’ll even get a brain boost from twice-weekly workouts.

Low sodium levels linked to cognitive decline

Pass the salt… instead of passing on it

It’s a fixture on every dinner table… but the mainstream has practically slapped a skull and crossbones on it.

I’m talking about the salt shaker.

For years, salt has taken the blame for blood pressure problems — and there’s no denying that if your BP is truly dangerously high, shoveling in mountains of salt can send you to an early grave.

But eating TOO LITTLE salt isn’t good for you, either.

Fact is, you NEED salt for your muscles and nerves to function properly. And sodium is crucial to restoring your electrolyte balance, especially after an illness or a big workout.

And now, a new study shows that your BRAIN needs salt, too — because having too little sodium in your blood may get the ball rolling on cognitive decline.

And it can speed it up if your cognitive function is already impaired.

In the study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, over 5,000 older men had their blood sodium levels measured and their cognitive function tested.

Compared to men with normal blood sodium levels, those with slightly lower blood sodium levels (a.k.a. “mild hyponatremia”) were 30 percent more likely to have cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study.

And at a follow-up about five years later, that risk had jumped to 37 percent.

Now, the study didn’t determine exactly why a lack of sodium can make cognitive decline worse over time, although it does confirm previous findings from other studies — including one last year that found the same association in both men and women.

The theory that makes the most sense is that having too little sodium in your bloodstream can throw the balance of water off in your body and allow it to build up in your brain. And if your brain swells with water inside your skull (a.k.a. cerebral edema), it’s got nowhere to expand.

And a squished brain is a brain that doesn’t work quite as well.

But before you go dumping tablespoons of salt onto your food, you should know that in the study, the opposite was true as well: High levels of sodium in the blood were ALSO associated with cognitive decline.

So, you’ve got to hit that “sweet” spot of just enough salt, and the best way to do that is to steer clear of restaurant meals and store-bought foods like instant noodles, canned soups, and bottled salad dressings. Studies have shown that those account for a whopping 90 percent of most folks’ salt intake.

But since only 5 percent comes from adding salt while preparing a home-cooked meal… and another 5 percent comes from sprinkling some salt on as a finishing touch… don’t be shy with the salt shaker on the FRESH foods you cook at home.