Food for Brain

The central nervous system is composed of brain and spinal cord. Nerves start from the nervous system and end in various parts of the body acting as a transporter of impulses. Spinal cord speeds up the messages to be sent to the target organs.

Have you ever thought of the secret behind each and every process that take place in our body, right from chatting to walking?

Brain anatomy and functions:

Our brain is the organ that controls and orders other specific target organs in order to bring these changes. The brain is the leader of our body and it is based on this that the whole body works. We are now focused on the following five important parts of the brain team:

  • Cerebrum
  • Cerebellum
  • Brain stem
  • Pituitary gland
  • Hypothalamus

The following is a self explanatory diagram on the structure and functioning of each part of brain.

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain accounting to nearly 85% of the total brain weight and is responsible for the vital functions in the body such as the ability to think and act. Cerebrum is highly wrinkled and is divided into right and left hemispheres by means of a conjunction called corpus callosum. The right side of the cerebrum controls the left side of cerebrum and vice versa.

Cerebrum being the largest and the most important part of brain, is classified into four lobes namely, the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe and temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is involved in organizing and planning, problem solving, developing a behavior and emotions. Occipital lobe controls the actions such as perception of visual information, whereas speaking and language ability is controlled by the parietal lobe. Temporal lobe takes care of the short-term memory. It is divided into two lobes namely, the right and left lobe. One lobe is responsible for smell and the other for sound perception.

Cerebellum is the portion of the brain that is found to exist below the cerebrum and occupies a very little space and weight. It is because of cerebrum that we are able to carry out our daily activities such as walking, standing erect and balancing the body. Cerebellum is often referred to as “little brain” due to the size it occupies in the brain region.

Based on the functions the brain performs, it is classified into the following areas such as forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. The forebrain constitutes the cerebral cortex, where most of the processing of impulses takes place. The midbrain and hindbrain both together constitute the brain stem. The midbrain actually connects the forebrain with the hindbrain and is responsible for activities such as auditory, visual and motor. The hind brain is responsible for controlling the metabolic functions such as heart beat, respiration and digestion.

The brain stem is composed of medulla, pons and midbrain. The brain stem is solely needed for all the process that is required to keep the person alive such as breathing, heart rate and maintaining blood pressure. All these processes are carried out under the guidance of brain stem because of its ability to control the involuntary muscles.

Pituitary gland is called as the “Master gland” of the endocrine system since it controls the other endocrine gland functions. Pituitary gland itself is composed of three glands namely, the anterior, intermediate and posterior lobe. Pituitary gland is the gland that secretes the hormone required for the growth of humans. It also secretes the various hormones such as prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and oxytocin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the production of milk after delivery. ACTH is responsible for stimulation of adrenal glands and TSH stimulates the thyroid gland. FSH and LH stimulate the testes and ovaries. Whenever there is water scarcity in the body, the body regulates the volume of water by increasing the rate of absorption of water by the stimulation of ADH. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for bringing in the contractions of uterus and resulting in child birth.

As we all know, the normal body temperature is 37 degree Celsius and this temperature is maintained by the action of hypothalamus.

Diseases affecting brain:

The following are the diseases most commonly found to affect the brain:

  • Vision loss
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Brain tumors
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Cysts in brain
  • Cerebral atrophy
  • Encephalopathy
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Trauma
  • Gaucher’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • AIDS dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Schizophrenia

Out of the above mentioned diseases we are going to look into some of the most prevalent brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia and brain cancer. Brain tumors are mostly of two types, namely the benign and malignant cancer. The major symptoms of brain cancer include headache, nausea, vomiting, inability to talk, walk properly, understanding, memory problems and vision problems. Alzheimer’s disease is the disease that affects the brain at a slower rate and is manifested in the form of gradual memory loss. This occurs due to the part of brain that is responsible for controlling the actions of thought, memory and language being affected. Such individuals tend to forget their day to day activities and need the assistance of some on else to perform these tasks. Schizophrenia is a condition characterized by gradual loss of grey matter from the brain. The patients suffering from schizophrenia have the symptoms such as hallucinations, depression, hearing voices and psychotic thoughts.

Note : STG means the superior temporal gyrus and DLPFC means the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Mechanism behind the cognitive function of brain:

With the advancement of age, each and every individual tend to lose the brain cells which results in the decline of cognitive function and memory. The loss of mental ability is either due to the loss of brain cells or due to the lack of transmission of nerve impulses between the nerve cells. The impulses are transmitted from one cell to another by means of chemical neurotransmitters.

The oxygen radicals that are generated in excess in the body due to various metabolic reactions are termed as free radicals. These free radicals are the main cause of reduced mental ability in the body. Certain nutrients that are present in foods are capable of scavenging this excessive oxygen from the body and hence are known as antioxidants. The oxygen scavenging capacity of antioxidants is called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). The ORAC of green leafy vegetable were found to be greater when compared to that of potatoes.

With the process of maturation, the brain gets affected by oxidative stress and inflammation, which are considered as the two obstacles of normal brain functioning. The free radicals unless taken off from the body, lead to oxidative damage of the cell and is called oxidative stress.

Foods for brain:

Brain is the key organ that controls all the functions of the human body. Although a food as such could not be considered aiding in the development of brain, the nutrients contributed by the foods such as iron, vitamin B12 and other nutrients are found to play a great role in the cognitive function of brain. The main reason behind this is that these nutrients play a vital role in altering the nerve cell signals, thus affecting the memory and cognitive capacity of the human being. Improving the diet by enhancing the nutrient content could do wonders.

It is a proven fact that including a healthy diet is of prime importance as far as the performance of brain is concerned. It acts as a source of booster of intelligence quotient and also alters the psychological condition of the mind. The nerve cells transmit the impulse from one part to another by means of neurotransmitters, which act as messengers carrying the messages from one neuron to another. These neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids, which are considered as the building blocks of proteins. For the formation of these neurotransmitters, certain vitamins and minerals are required. In addition to certain nutrients found in foods, neurotransmitters are also found in foods naturally.

The three important neurotransmitters that are naturally present in foods are:

v Serotonin

v Dopamine

v Acetylcholine

Let us now see the functions and food sources of each and every natural neurotransmitter.

v Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for producing the various feelings of pleasure and has a significant effect on altering the mood, sleeping tendencies and appetite in the body. The deficiency of serotonin leads to a condition called depression. The foods that naturally contain Serotonin are mainly those that are rich in carbohydrates such as cereals, bread, pasta, potatoes, and carrots.

v Dopamine is responsible for attention and learning. Excessive intake of dopamine results in Schizophrenia deficiency resulting in Parkinson's disease. The foods that are rich sources of dopamine include most of the protein rich foods such as milk and milk products, non-vegetarian food items, soybeans, egg white and so on.

v Acetylcholine is solely responsible for memory and people deficient in this neurotransmitter are found to be affected by Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by memory loss. Foods such as vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, milk, cheese, liver, egg yolk, peanuts and liver.

Nutrient deficiency, its effect on brain:

Iron is used to make neurotransmitters and regulate the ability to pay attention, which is crucial to learning. Hence iron deficiency affects the mood, attention span and learning ability. Iron deficiency lowers the motivation to persist in intellectually challenging tasks and thus impairs overall intellectual performance. Children suffering from iron deficiency anemia perform poorly at the age when compared with their peers.

The ability of neurons to synthesize specific neurotransmitters depends in part on the availability of precursor nutrients that are obtained from diet. Neurotransmitters are either synthesized in the body or obtained from foods. The enzymes involved in neurotransmitter synthesis require vitamin and minerals. Hence moderate, long-term nutrient deficiencies may contribute to the loss of memory and cognition that some older adults experience.

Severe dietary deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin C results in short-term memory loss. Children are found to showcase poor performance in problem-solving tests occurring as a result of deficiency of riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin C. Severe deficiency of thiamin and zinc yields dementia. Vitamin B6 deficiency results in degeneration of brain tissue. The cognitive development is impaired by inadequate intake of folate, vitamin B6, B12 and iron. The effects of these deficiencies may be diminished or delayed through proper diet.

Effects of alcohol on brain:

  • STEP 1: As soon as alcohol enters the brain, the judgment and reasoning centers which are the most sensitive, gets affected. Alcohol thus affects the reasoning and judgment by sedating the reasoning part of the brain namely the frontal lobe of cerebrum.

  • STEP 2: Soon after affecting the frontal lobe, the next target area of alcohol is the speech and vision centers. These centers become sedated when a person drinks faster than the rate at which the liver oxidizes the alcohol. As a result of these reactions, blood concentration rises.

  • STEP 3: The person then loses his voluntary muscular control. When the alcohol concentration is still higher, then it affects the voluntary muscles used in speech, eye and limb movements. Hence the drunken person loses his control over his walk and speech.

  • STEP 4: At last, the respiration and heart rate gets affected, which further leads to damage of conscious brain resulting in eventual death. Moreover death is also caused due to the disruption of the breathing and respiration process.

Healthy life style tips to improve the intelligence:

  • It is advised to consume nearly 2 liters of water per day. People who do not consume enough water were found to have their brain activity at a very low level.

  • Glucose acts as the source of energy for brain. It is recommended to consume carbohydrate rich diet during dinner so as to induce sleep and replenish with lots of energy in the morning.

  • It is better to consume small frequent meals because of the higher need of oxygen for the digestive process. Soon after the consumption of heavy meals, oxygen is used up for the digestive process to take place and meanwhile the brain does not receive adequate oxygen. The oxygen supply to brain can also be increased by regular exercise.
  • Inclusion of a diet rich in Omega 3-fatty acids is very essential for the proper functioning of brain. These fatty acids are not synthesized by the body and hence have to be obtained from the foods. Lack of these fatty acids leads to depression, low IQ, memory loss and other mental disorders. The foods that are rich in omega 3-fatty acids include sea foods such as high fat fishes namely mackerel, sardines, shark and salmon.
  • Foods that are rich sources of vitamins and minerals need to be included. This will definitely improve the antioxidant status of the body and prevent the damages caused by free radicals to the brain.
  • Include more of foods that are rich in B vitamins especially folates, such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, sprouted grams and so on.
  • Iron rich foods should be given prime importance since they are found to increase the concentration and alertness. The foods that are rich in iron are red meats, dates, green leafy vegetables and goat liver.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol, other sedative drugs and smoking.
  • Make the maximum usage of brain in order to improve its ability to perform. This can be easily achieved by indulging in brain storming activities such as reading informative books and magazines, playing puzzles and music and involving in other creative activities.Conclusion:


Hope now you all are aware of the brain structure, functions, diseases affected and the effect of foods on the brain. “Leading a healthy lifestyle enriched with emotional goodness” is the secret behind the safeguarding the brain from the deleterious effects.

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