VIDEO – THINK BRAIN FOOD –
Aug 24, 2022 – As with vitamin C, deficits in other vitamins and minerals can also precipitate nutritional diseases that adversely impact the brain in humans. For example, low dietary levels of vitamin B3/niacin – typically found in meat and fish – cause pellagra, a disease in which people develop dementia.
Niacin is essential to turn food into energy and building blocks, protect the genetic blueprint from environmental damage and control how much of certain gene products are made. In the absence of these critical processes, brain cells, also known as neurons, malfunction and die prematurely, leading to dementia.
In animal models, decreasing or blocking the production of niacin in the brain promotes neuronal damage and cell death. Conversely, enhancing niacin levels has been shown to mitigate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Observational studies in humans suggest that sufficient levels of niacin may protect against these diseases, but the results are still inconclusive.
Interestingly, niacin deficiency caused by consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to similar effects as those found with pellagra.
Another example of how a nutrient deficiency affects brain function can be found in the element iodine, which, like niacin, must be acquired from one’s diet. Iodine, which is present in seafood and seaweed, is an essential building block for thyroid hormones – signaling molecules that are important for many aspects of human biology, including development, metabolism, appetite and sleep. Low iodine levels prevent the production of adequate amounts of thyroid hormones, impairing these essential physiological processes.