Posture affects memory recall and mood

This blog has been reprinted from: Peper, E., Lin, I-M., Harvey, R., & Perez, J. (2017). How posture affects memory recall and mood.  Biofeedback, 45 (2), 36-41.

When I sat collapsed looking down, negative memories flooded me and I found it difficult to shift and think of positive memories. While sitting erect, I found it easier to think of positive memories.               -Student participant

Charlie BrownThe link between posture and mood is embedded in idiomatic phrases such as walking tall, standing proud, and an upstanding citizen, versus collapsed, defeated, or in a slump–Language suggests that posture and mood/emotions are connected. Slumped posture is commonly observed in depression (Canales et al., 2010; Michalak et al., 2009) and adapting an upright posture increases positive affect, reduces fatigue, and increases energy in people with mild to moderate depression (Wilkes et al., 2017; Peper & Lin, 2012).

This blog describes in detail our research study that demonstrated  how posture affects memory recall  (Peper et al, 2017). Our findings may explain why depression is increasing the more people use cell phones. More importantly,  learning posture awareness and siting more upright  at home and in the office may be an effective somatic self-healing strategy to increase positive affect and decrease depression.

Background

Most psychotherapies tend to focus on the mind component of the body-mind relationship. On the other hand, exercise and posture focus on the body component of the mind/emotion/body relationship. Physical activity in general has been demonstrated to improve mood and exercise has been successfully used to treat depression with lower recidivism rates than pharmaceuticals such as sertraline (Zoloft) (Babyak et al., 2000). Although the role of exercise as a treatment strategy for depression has been accepted, the role of posture is not commonly included in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or biofeedback or neurofeedback therapy.

The link between posture, emotions and cognition to counter symptoms of depression and low energy have been suggested by Wilkes et al. (2017) and Peper and Lin (2012),  . Peper and Lin (2012) demonstrated that if people tried skipping rather than walking in a slouched posture, subjective energy after the exercise was significantly higher. Among the participants who had reported the highest level of depression during the last two years, there was a significant decrease of subjective energy when they walked in slouched position as compared to those who reported a low level of depression. Earlier, Wilson and Peper (2004) demonstrated that in a collapsed posture, students more easily accessed hopeless, powerless, defeated and other negative memories as compared to memories accessed in an upright position. More recently, Tsai, Peper, and Lin (2016) showed that when participants sat in a collapsed position, evoking positive thoughts required more “brain activation” (i.e. greater mental effort) compared to that required when walking in an upright position.

Even hormone levels also appear to change in a collapsed posture (Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010). For example, two minutes of standing in a collapsed position significantly decreased testosterone and increased cortisol as compared to a ‘power posture,’ which significantly increased testosterone and decreased cortisol while standing. As  Professor Amy Cuddy pointed out in herTechnology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk, “By changing posture, you not only present yourself differently to the world around you, you actually change your hormones” (Cuddy, 2012).  Although there appears to be controversy about the results of this study, the overall findings match mammalian behavior of dominance and submission. From my perspective, the concepts underlying Cuddy’s TED talk are correct and are reconfirmed in our research on the effect of posture.  For more detail about the controversy, see the article by Susan Dominusin in the New York Times,  “When the revolution came for Amy Cuddy,”, and Amy Cuddy’s response (Dominus, 2017;Singal and Dahl, 2016).

The purpose of our study is to expand on our observations with more than 3,000 students and workshop participants. We observed that body posture and position affects recall of emotional memory. Moreover, a history of self-described depression appears to affect the recall of either positive or negative memories.

Method

Subjects: 216 college students (65 males; 142 females; 9 undeclared), average age: 24.6 years (SD = 7.6) participated in a regularly planned classroom demonstration regarding the relationship between posture and mood. As an evaluation of a classroom activity, this report of findings was exempted from Institutional Review Board oversight.

Procedure

While sitting in a class, students filled out a short, anonymous questionnaire, which asked them to rate their history of depression over the last two years, their level of depression and energy at this moment, and how easy it was for them to change their moods and energy level (on a scale from 1–10). The students also rated the extent they became emotionally absorbed or “captured” by their positive or negative memory recall. Half of the students were asked to rate how they sat in front of their computer, tablet, or mobile device on a scale from 1 (sitting upright) to 10 (completely slouched).

Two different sitting postures were clearly defined for participants: slouched/collapsed and erect/upright as shown in Figure 1. To assume the collapsed position, they were asked to slouch and look down while slightly rounding the back. For the erect position, they were asked to sit upright with a slight arch in their back, while looking upward.

Figure 1 body positionFigure 1. Sitting in a collapsed position and upright position (photo by Jana  Asenbrennerova). Reprinted by permission from Gorter and Peper (2011).

After experiencing both postures, half the students sat in the collapsed position while the other half sat in the upright position. While in this position, they were asked to recall/evoke as many hopeless, helpless, powerless, or defeated memories as possible, one after the other, for 30 seconds.

After 30 seconds they were reminded to keep their same position and let go of thinking negative memories. They were then asked to recall/evoke only positive, optimistic, or empowering memories for 30 seconds.

They were then asked to switch positions. Those who were collapsed switched to sitting erect, and those who were erect switched to sitting collapsed. Then they were again asked to recall/evoke as many hopeless, helpless, powerless, or defeated memories as possible one after the other for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds they were reminded to keep their same position and again let go of thinking of negative memories. They were then asked to recall/evoke only positive, optimistic, or empowering memories for 30 seconds, while still retaining the second posture.

They then rated their subjective experience in recalling negative or positive memories and the degree to which they were absorbed or captured by the memories in each position, and in which position it was easier to recall positive or negative experiences.

Results

86% of the participants reported that it was easier to recall/access negative memories in the collapsed position than in the erect position, which was significantly different as determined by one-way ANOVA (F(1,430)=110.193, p < 0.01) and 87% of participants reported that it was easier to recall/access positive images in the erect position than in the collapsed position, which was significantly different as determined by one-way ANOVA (F(1,430)=173.861, p < 0.01) as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 emotional recallFigure 2. Percent of respondents who reported that it was easier to recall positive or negative memories in an upright or slouched posture.

The difficulty or ease of recalling negative or positive memories varied depending on position as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 access to memoriesFigure 3. The relative subjective rating in the ease or difficulty of recalling negative and positive memories in collapsed and upright positions.

The participants with a high level of depression over the last two years (top 23% of participants who scored 7 or higher on the scale of 1–10) reported that it was significantly more difficult to change their mood from negative to positive (t(110) = 4.08, p < 0.01) than was reported by those with a low level of depression (lowest 29% of the participants who scored 3 or less on the scale of 1–10). It was significantly easier for more depressed students to recall/evoke negative memories in the collapsed posture (t(109) = 2.55, p = 0.01) and in the upright posture (t(110) = 2.41, p ≦0.05 he) and no significant difference in recalling positive memories in either posture, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4 least most depressedFigure 4. Differences is in memory access for participants with a history of least or most depression.

For all participants, there was a significant correlation (r = 0.4) between subjective energy level and ease with which they could change from negative to positive mood. There were no significance differences for gender in all measures except that males reported a significantly higher energy level than females (M = 5.5, SD = 3.0 and M = 4.7, SD = 3.8, respectively; t(203) = 2.78, p < 0.01).

A subset of students also had rated their posture when sitting in front of a computer or using a digital device (tablet or cell phone) on a scale from 1 (upright) to 10 (completely slouched). The students with the highest levels of depression over the last two years reporting slouching significantly more than those with the lowest level of depression over the last two years (M = 6.4, SD = 3.5 and M = 4.6, SD = 2.6; t(46) = 3.5, p < 0.01).

There were no other order effects except of accessing fewer negative memories in the collapsed posture after accessing positive memories in the erect posture (t(159)=2.7, p < 0.01). Approximately half of the students who also rated being “captured” by their positive or negative memories were significantly more captured by the negative memories in the collapsed posture than in the erect posture (t(197) = 6.8, p < 0.01) and were significantly more captured by positive memories in the erect posture than the collapsed posture (t(197) = 7.6, p < 0.01), as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5 Posture dependent ratingFigure 5. Subjective rating of being captured by negative and positive memories depending upon position.

Discussion

Posture significantly influenced access to negative and positive memory recall and confirms the report by Wilson and Peper (2004). The collapsed/slouched position was associated with significantly easier access to negative memories. This is a useful clinical observation because ruminating on negative memories tends to decrease subjective energy and increase depressive feelings (Michi et al., 2015). When working with clients to change their cognition, especially in the treatment of depression, the posture may affect the outcome. Thus, therapists should consider posture retraining as a clinical intervention. This would include teaching clients to change their posture in the office and at home as a strategy to optimize access to positive memories and thereby reduce access or fixation on negative memories. Thus if one is in a negative mood, then slouching could maintain this negative mood while changing body posture to an erect posture, would make it easier to shift moods.

Physiologically, an erect body posture allows participants to breathe more diaphragmatically because the diaphragm has more space for descent. It is easier for participants to learn slower breathing and increased heart rate variability while sitting erect as compared to collapsed, as shown in Figure 6 (Mason et al., 2017).

Figure 6 collapse and physiologyFigure 6. Effect of posture on respiratory breathing pattern and heart rate variability.

The collapsed position also tends to increase neck and shoulder symptoms This position is often observed in people who work at the computer or are constantly looking at their cell phone—a position sometimes labeled as the i-Neck.

Implication for therapy

In most biofeedback and neurofeedback training sessions, posture is not assessed and clients sit in a comfortable chair, which automatically causes a slouched position. Similarly, at home, most clients sit on an easy chair or couch, which lets them slouch as they watch TV or surf the web. Finally, most people slouch when looking at their cellphone, tablet, or the computer screen (Guan et al., 2016). They usually only become aware of slouching when they experience neck, shoulder, or back discomfort.

Clients and therapists are usually not aware that a slouched posture may decrease the client’s energy level and increase the prevalence of a negative mood. Thus, we recommend that therapists incorporate posture awareness and training to optimize access to positive imagery and increase energy.

References

Babyak, M., Blumenthal, J. A., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Doraiswamy, M., Moore, K., … Krishnan, K. R. (2000). Exercise treatment for major depression: maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 633–638. 

Canales, J. Z., Cordas, T. A., Fiquer, J. T., Cavalcante, A. F., & Moreno, R. A. (2010). Posture and body image in individuals with major depressive disorder: A controlled study. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria, 32(4), 375–380.

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363–1368.

Cuddy, A. (2012). Your body language shapes who you are. Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) Talk, available at:  www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

Dominus, S. (2017, October 18). When the revolution came for Amy Cuddy. New York Times Magazine, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/magazine/when-the-revolution-came-for-amy-cuddy.html?_r=0

Gorter, R. & Peper, E. (2011). Fighting Cancer-A Non Toxic Approach to Treatment. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books

Guan, X., Fan, G., Chen, Z., Zeng, Y., Zhang, H., Hu, A., … He, S. (2016). Gender difference in mobile phone use and the impact of digital device exposure on neck posture. Ergonomics59(11), 1453–1461.

Mason, L., Joy, M., Peper, E., & Harvey, R, A. (2017). Posture Matters. Poster presented at the 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Chicago, IL March, 2017. Abstract published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 42(2), 148.

Michalak, J., Troje, N. F., Fischer, J., Vollmar, P., Heidenreich, T., & Schulte, D. (2009). Embodiment of sadness and depression: Gait patterns associated with dysphoric mood. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71(5), 580–587.

Michl, L. C., McLaughlin, K. A., Shepherd, K., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2013). Rumination as a mechanism linking stressful life events to symptoms of depression and anxiety: Longitudinal evidence in early adolescents and adults. Journal of Abnormal Psychology122(2), 339.

Peper, E. & Lin, I-M. (2012). Increase or decrease depression: How body postures influence your energy level. Biofeedback, 40(3), 126–130.

Peper, E., Lin, I-M., Harvey, R., & Perez, J. (2017). How posture affects memory recall and mood.  Biofeedback.45 (2), 36-41.

Singal, J. and Dahl, M. (2016, Sept 30 ) Here Is Amy Cuddy’s Response to Critiques of Her Power-Posing Research. https://www.thecut.com/2016/09/read-amy-cuddys-response-to-power-posing-critiques.html

Tsai, H. Y., Peper, E., & Lin, I. M. (2016). EEG patterns under positive/negative body postures and emotion recall tasks. NeuroRegulation, 3(1), 23–27.

Wilkes, C., Kydd, R., Sagar, M., & Broadbent, E. (2017). Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 143–149.

Wilson, V.E. and Peper, E. (2004). The effects of upright and slumped postures on the generation of positive and negative thoughts. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 29(3), 189–195.

We thank Frank Andrasik for his constructive comments.

 


Breathing to improve well-being

Breathing affects all aspects of your life. This invited keynote, Breathing and posture: Mind-body interventions to improve health, reduce pain and discomfort, was presented at the Caribbean Active Aging Congress, October 14, Oranjestad, Aruba. www.caacaruba.com

The presentation includes numerous practices that can be rapidly adapted into daily life to improve health and well-being.


Healthy movement is the new aging

Born on 26 November 1911, Mr Robert Marchand and 105 years old, managed cycling 22.55 km (14 miles) at the national velodrome and set a new record for the furthest distance cycled in one hour for riders over 105. (Reynolds, 2017).

Meet 105-year-old Robert Marchand, the centenarian cyclist chasing a new record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey48j6dDNEo

As people age there is an increase in Western Diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, gout, cancer, dementia and  decreases in physical fitness (Milanović et al, 2013Tauber, 2016).   To assume that the cause of these illnesses is the natural process of aging may be too simplistic. Although aging does affect physiology, there are other factors that contribute to the increase in “Western Diseases” such as diet, lifestyle and genetics.

A significant contributing factor of Western Diseases is diet especially  the increase in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Whether you are Pima, Tohono O’odham, and Navajo American Indian Tribes in Arizona, Intuits in Northern Canada, Japanese Americans, or indigenous populations of Kenya, when these people stopped eating their traditional diet and adapted the western high glucose/fructose/simple carbohydrate diet, the degenerative Western Diseases exploded (Bjerregaard et al, 2004; Burkitt & Trowell, 1975; Knowler et al, 1990; Tauber, 2016). Diabetes, hypertension, and cancer which were previously rare skyrocketed within one generation after adapting the Western life style diet. In some of these populations, 30% or more of the adults have diabetes and a significant increase in breast cancer.

The reduction of episodic high intensity physical activity and being sedentary are additional risk factors for the onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Dulloo et al, 2017). As Mensing & Mekel (2015) state, “Sitting is the new smoking.”  Sitting encourages more sitting which leads to nonuse of muscles and causes neural and muscle atrophy.  Our physiology is efficient and will prune/eliminate what is redundant.  This is reflected in the popular phrase, “Use it or lose it.”  As we sit for hours in front of digital devices, use escalators, elevators, or drive cars, we are not using the muscles involved in dynamic movement.  We are usually unaware of this degenerative process. Instead,  we may experience difficulty walking up the stairs  which encourages us to take the escalator or elevator. When we do not use the muscles or are limited in movement by discomfort and pain, we move less. As we move less, we become  weaker which is often labeled as aging instead of non use.

Just, because most people loose fitness, it may not represent what is possible or optimum.  Instead, we may want to emulate the diet and fitness program of Mr. Robert Marchand who at age 103 set a new world record and improved the distance bicycled in one hour from 24.25 km at the age of 101 to 26.92 km at the age of 103. A 11% improvement! As New York Times science writer Gretchen Reynolds reports, “Lifestyle may also matter. Mr. Marchand is “very optimistic and sociable,” The researcher who did the study, Dr. Billat says, “with many friends,” and numerous studies suggest that strong social ties are linked to a longer life. His diet is also simple, focusing on yogurt, soup, cheese, chicken and a glass of red wine at dinner (Reynolds, 2017).

The improvement in bicycling performance and physiological indicators such as ⩒O2max increased (31 to 35 ml.kg-1min-1; +13%), appeared to be due to a change in his training regimen (Billat et al 2016).  At age 101 he changed his bicycling training program from riding at a steady speed for one hour to riding 80% at an easy pace and 20% at high intensity.  This is a  type of interval training and includes enough recovery allows the body the recover and strengthen. This analogous to our evolutionary movement pattern of walking interspersed with short distance high intensity running.

As a hunter and gather we often moved steadily and then had to run very fast to escape a predator or catch an animal.  After extreme exertion, we would rest and regenerate (if we did not escape we would be lunch for the predator). Thus episodic high intensity activity with significant rest/regenerative periods is the movement pattern that allowed our species to survive and thrive. Research studies have confirmed that high intensity interval training offers more physiological benefits–increases cardiorespiratory fitness which is a strong determinant of morbidity and mortality– than moderate intensity continuous training (Weston et al, 2014).

Thus when Mr. Marchard changed his exercise pattern from moderate intensity continuous training to high intensity interval training with enough recovery time he set a new world record at age 103. Two years later he set a new world record at age 105.

Exercise improves brain function and interval training appears to improve brain function most.  When rats had prolonged exercise, the brain’s stores of energy is significantly lowered in the frontal cortex and hippocampus all areas which area involved in thinking and memory. If on the other hand, the animals had a single intense bout of exercise and were allowed to rest and feed than the brain levels of glycogen was 60% high in the frontal and hippocampus areas.  This suggest that the brain can then function better (Matsui et al, 2012).

This perspective is supported by the evolutionary hypothesis discussed by Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert who points out that brains evolved, not to think or feel, but to direct movement. When movement is no longer needed the brain shrinks and gets reabsorbed which is illustrated by the sea squirt. This animal swims as a juvenile and then anchors on a rock and is passively moved by the currents. Once anchored, it no longer needed to coordinate movement and reabsorb its own nervous system. See Daniel Wolpert’s remarkable TED talk, The real reasons for brains.

The remarkable feat of Mr. Marchand offers suggestions for our own health. Enjoy healthy movement and exercise and incorporate our evolutionary movement patterns:  episodic high intensity followed by regeneration. At the same time include a healthy diet by reducing sugars and simple carbohydrates.  Finally, it helps to have the right genes.

References:

Billat, V. L., Dhonneur, G., Mille-Hamard, L., Le Moyec, L., Momken, I., Launay, T., & Besse, S. (2016). Case Studies in Physiology: Maximal Oxygen Consumption and Performance in a Centenarian CyclistJournal of Applied Physiology, jap-00569. http://jap.physiology.org/content/jap/early/2016/12/29/japplphysiol.00569.2016.full.pdf

Bjerregaard, P., Kue Young, T., Dewailly, E., & Ebbesson, S. O. (2004). Review Article: Indigenous health in the Arctic: an overview of the circumpolar Inuit population. Scandinavian Journal of Social Medicine32(5), 390-395. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51366099_Indigenous_Health_in_the_Arctic_An_Overview_of_the_Circumpolar_Inuit_Population

Burkitt, D.P. & Trowell, H.C. eds. (1975). Refined carbohydrate foods and disease: Some implications of dietary fibre. New York: Academic Press.

Dulloo, A. G., Miles‐Chan, J. L., & Montani, J. P. (2017). Nutrition, movement and sleep behaviours: their interactions in pathways to obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Obesity Reviews18(S1), 3-6.

Knowler, W. C., Pettitt, D. J., Saad, M. F., & Bennett, P. H. (1990). Diabetes mellitus in the Pima Indians: incidence, risk factors and pathogenesis. Diabetes/metabolism reviews6(1), 1-27.

Matsui, T., Ishikawa, T., Ito, H., Okamoto, M., Inoue, K., Lee, M. C., … & Soya, H. (2012). Brain glycogen supercompensation following exhaustive exerciseThe Journal of physiology590(3), 607-616.

Mensing, M., & Mekel, O. C. L. (2015). Sitting is the new smoking-Modelling physical activity interventions in North Rhine-Westphalia. The European Journal of Public Health25(suppl 3), ckv171-037.

Milanović, Z., Pantelić, S., Trajković, N., Sporiš, G., Kostić, R., & James, N. (2013). Age-related decrease in physical activity and functional fitness among elderly men and women. Clinical interventions in aging, 8, 549-556.

Reynolds, G. (2017, February 8). Lessons on Aging Well, From a 105-Year-Old Cyclist. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/well/move/lessons-on-aging-well-from-a-105-year-old-cyclist.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront

Taubes, G. (2016). The Case Against Sugar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Weston, K. S., Wisløff, U., & Coombes, J. S. (2014). High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysisBritish journal of sports medicine48(16), 1227-1234. http://www.rcsi.ie/files/facultyofsportsexercise/20141201122758_High-intensity%20interval%20traini.pdf

Wolpert, D. (2011) The Real Reason for Brains.  http://www..com/tatedlks/daniel_wolpert_the_real_reason_for_brains.html

Youtube video: Meet 105-year-old Robert Marchand, the centenarian cyclist chasing a new record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey48j6dDNEo

 

 

 


From Wisdom to Alzheimer’s: Are we poisoning ourselves with affluent malnutrition and sedentary life style?

Wise elders, grand parents or statesmen have been the traditional roles for aging adults. Older people were revered as the repository and sources of wisdom in many traditional cultures.  Presently the development of aging into wisdom is being overshadowed by the specter of Alzheimer’s disease. Wisdom transforming into Alzheimer’s disease does not compute.  How come that in slightly more than a century after it was first described by the neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, the fear of contracting and possible having Alzheimer’s disease with the concurrent  loss of cognitive and body functions is becoming a possibility? How could this have occurred?

Today more people are living to older ages; however, in traditional cultures some people also lived to very old age (the major increase in present day longevity is due to the elimination of infant and maternal mortality and medical treatment to survive trauma).

Is it possible that the prevention of Alzheimer’s will not be found in pharmaceutical treatment but in promoting organic food diet and movement?   The research data is starting to find that our life style patterns are risk factors for Alzheimer’s.  Changing lifestyle factors is a more promising treatment approach than drugs.  A significant risk factor may be the confluence of a sedentary lifestyle and affluent malnutrition. Researchers are even reporting that the built up of the beta amyloid plaques in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease is not  the result of aging but the body’s attempt to cope with the influx of environmental and dietary poisons or decreases in essential foods or body activities.

Risk: Sedentary lifestyle-Too little exercise

Over the last hundred years–and rapidly accelerated in the last 30 years–we have transformed work into sitting. By sitting in front of a computer screen, we have created a new disease: Immobilization Syndrome. Lack of exercise is recognize as a major factor in numerous illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Movement in many different forms reduces the risk of illness.  Older people who exercise have a significant reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s  (Larson, 2006; Radak et al, 2010).

Regular movement lowers the risk. Even though there is overwhelming scientific evidence that movement and exercise are required for health, there is a disconnect with the medical and educational practices.  Insurances will pay for medical treatment; however, they usually will not pay for prevention or exercise.  At the same time physical education in schools is reduced or eliminated to reduce the risk of litigation (an injured child on the playground could sue the school).  Children now spend most of their time in front of a screen while exercising their thumb and index fingers instead of playing and moving outdoors.

Risk: Affluent malnutrition-too much sugar and simple carbohydrates

Affluent malnutrition appears to be another risk factor. Recent findings suggests that the beta amyloids plagues, as the marker for Alzheimer’s in the brain, may be a protective response to the modulating insulin levels triggered by affluent malnutrition and sedentary life style. This disease has been labeled as type 3 diabetes by Associate Professor Suzanne de la Monte at Brown University (Steen et al, 2005). Namely, the disease occurs as the brain tissue becomes resistant to insulin.

Rats that are fed high-fructose corn syrup laced water experienced learning and memory problems in less than 6 weeks and became less responsive to insulin.  At the same time if the animals were given omega 3 fatty acids, they appear to escape the cognitive decline.  In other research rats developed Alzheimer like brain changes and became demented when Suzanne de la Monte interfered with how the rats brains respond to insulin (Trivedi, 2012).

Alois Alzheimer first described these abnormal protein structure in the brains  a little more than a hundred years ago. At that time  the European diet had increased sugar intake as shown in figure 1. While more recently there has been a significant   increase in high fructose corn syrup as shown in figure 2.

Figure 1 sugar

Figure 1. Radical increase in sugar consumption in the last 200 years.  From: http://blog.zestos.co.nz/2010/09/sugar-consumption-been-high-before.html

Figure 2 High fructose corn syrup

Figure 2. Increase in the type of sugar consumption in the last thirty years.  From: http://blog.zestos.co.nz/2010/09/sugar-consumption-been-high-before.html

We are now becoming concerned with the Alzheimer’s disease as an upcoming epidemic.  It cannot be just sugar; since, its consumption has been high since the beginning of the 20th century. A possible contributor could be the high-fructose corn syrup; however, it is most likely the interaction between reduced exercise and sugar.

Sugar set the stage for pathogenesis to occur in the brain and the absence of movement/exercise promotes and supports the pathogenesis. People continue to decrease movement:  from walking or riding horses to sitting cars or standing on escalators and elevators; from doing physical housework to automated washing machines, driers and dishwashers; from preparing foods from raw materials to prepackaged foods; from filing and typing to computer work; from playing family games to watching TV and searching the net; from face to face communication to texting; etc.

We have separated from our biological evolutionary heritage.  I am not surprised that Alzheimer’s disease and immobility and sugar are linked.   Adopt the precautionary principle  and assume that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with reduced movement (immobilization syndrome) is  harmful.

As a reader, you will probably have to wait another 20 years before these findings have been scientifically proven against the overt and covert lobbying efforts of agribusiness and pharmaceutical industry.  Remember it took 30 years to demonstrate that smoking was harmful.  Begin to move and eat in concert with your evolutionary background (See Part III Self-care in Gorter and Peper, 2011).

Begin now!

Eat food not sugars! Eat the foods great grandparents would recognize as food as Michael Pollan (2009) describe in his superb book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Eat foods that have not been processed or adulterated by additives. Take charge by eating brain supporting foods such as organic vegetables, roots, fruits, nuts, fish, some organ meat, and eliminate all those sugary, fatty processed highly advertised fast foods.

Move and exercise!  Get up and move every hour. Walk up the stairs instead of the escalator. Meet new people and move by going  hiking,  dancing,  Tai Chi or yoga classes or volunteer by helping others.

References

Gorter, R. & Peper, E. (2011). Fighting Cancer-A Non Toxic Approach to Treatment. Berkeley: North Atlantic.

Larson, E.G., Wang, L., Bowen, J.D., McCormick, W. C., Teri, L., Crane, P., & Kukull, W. (2006).  Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older. Ann Intern Med, 144(2), 73-81.

Pollan, M. (2009).  In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Radak, Z., Hart. N., Sarga, L., Koltai, E., Atalay, M., Ohno, H., & Boldogh, I. (2010). Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(3), 777-83.

Steen, E., Terry, B.M.  Rivera, E.J., Cannon, J.L., Neely, T.R., Tavares, R., Xu, X. J., Wands, J.R., & de al Monte, S. M.  (2005). Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease-is this type 3 diabetes? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 7(1), 53-80.

Trivedi, B. (2012). Eat your way to dementia. New Scientist, 215(2880), 32-37.