concentration

  1. Overeating could ruin your brain

    Empty calories aren't just bad for your belly. They can be downright ruinous for your brain -- and the latest research shows again how people who eat the most have the highest risk of memory problems.

    That means watching what you eat now could be the simplest way to avoid dementia later on.

    Researchers divided some 1,200 seniors between 70 and 89 years old into three categories based on how many calories they ate each day: a third consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories a day, a third chowed down on between 1,526 and 2,143, and the final third ate between 2,143 and 6,000 calories a day.

    Those in that last group had double the risk of mild cognitive impairment compared to the rest of the eaters in the study, even after adjusting for other risk factors like age, education and health history.

    But if you've noticed that the last category was rather broad, you're not alone.

    It seems to me there's a huge difference between someone who eats 2,200 calories a day -- which can be healthy, depending on how you get those calories -- and someone who gorges on 6,000 calories a day... which isn't healthy no matter what you eat.

    Yet in this study, they're both lumped into the same group. In addition, the study was based on food frequency questionnaires -- so those numbers are guesstimates at best.

    But I'm not ready to write this study off yet, either, because there's a clear link between diet and dementia -- and other studies have also found that people who weigh the most have the highest risk of the condition.

    One study found that women with the biggest waistlines in middle age had double the risk of dementia in old age. Another found that men and women alike with the highest levels of abdominal fat have more than triple the risk of dementia of those with the least.

    And yet another study last year found that overweight people see significant improvements in both memory and concentration when they lose weight.

    But if that's not enough of a reason to drop the extra pounds, consider all the other risks that accompany obesity: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and -- of course -- an early demise.

    If you can avoid all that by eating a little better, I say go for it.

  2. Nicotine may slow cognitive decline

    Could nicotine possibly be good for you?

    Short answer: Yes... sort of, and a new study shows again how the most addictive ingredient in cigarettes could help boost the brain.

    But don't start smoking -- because trust me, any "benefits" of nicotine are far outweighed by the risks.

    In the new study, researchers didn't even look at smokers. They recruited 67 non-smokers with mild cognitive impairment, one of the earliest warning signs of dementia, and assigned them to wear either a nicotine patch or a placebo patch.

    After six months, those who had the real patch did a little better on cognitive tests than those who got the placebo -- and didn't show any signs of side effects or even addiction.

    It's not too surprising, since nicotine is known to mimic a common neurotransmitter that often goes missing in people with dementia and other cognitive disorders.

    It does such a good job of it, in fact, that it pretty much behaves exactly like that neurotransmitter once it's in the brain -- and it's one of the reasons smokers get a quick boost in concentration after they light up.

    These brain-boosting benefits are among the reasons Big Pharma has been hard at work on a nicotine pill -- not to help smokers quit, but to bring the supposed benefits of nicotine to nonsmokers.

    But no matter how they try to sell you that nicotine, whether it's in a pill, patch or pipe, it's just not worth it -- because there are far better and more effective ways to boost your brainpower and slash your risk of dementia.

    Start with the ordinary B vitamins you can get from any vitamin shop. One recent groundbreaking study found that seniors who were given a blend of B6, B12 and folate did 70 percent better on memory tests than seniors who took a placebo.

    In fact, seniors who took the supplement improved by just about every measure, with boosts in episodic memory, semantic memory and overall global cognition. They even had lower levels of homocysteine, an inflammation marker linked to dementia, heart disease and more.

    And along with memory, B vitamins can help with everything from mood to muscle.

    With benefits like that, why mess around with nicotine?

  3. Soaking up the benefits of water

    It almost sounds like the benefits of some promising new blockbuster drug: Just a little bit can help lift mood, concentration and energy levels -- with virtually no side effects. Well, there is one side effect: You might need to pee a little more.

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