Brain Health,
Smart Drugs,

#002: Dr. Carol Greenwood on Brain Nutrition

December 07, 2012

Episode 2 – Summary

Jesse interviews Dr. Carol Greenwood, the co-author of MINDfull, a new e-book delivering readers recipes and brain nutrition information to enhance and preserve their neural health throughout their lifetimes. Dr. Greenwood, a professor at the University of Toronto and senior scientist with the Baycrest Foundation, is Canada’s leading professor on nutrition and brain health.

In this episode, Dr. Greenwood expands on her book’s ideas on brain health, including thoughts on Omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables, whether superfoods are really “super,” the inevitability of age-related declines in brain function, and what moderation really means in a diet.

The Relationship Between Diet and Brain Health
“[This book ties together] the science we understand in terms of diet and nutrition and brain health…taking that science and translat[ing] it into what it would look like when people sat down at their dining room table,” says Dr. Greenwood.  Find her book here.

Carol explains how she took her understanding of diet’s interaction with the brain and worked with professional recipe developers to create meals that your neurons will love as much as your taste buds. With Alzheimer’s now the world’s second most feared disease, many of us want to understand the science of what foods put our families at risk for future dementia or memory loss – and what foods can help us keep our brains sharp for a lifetime.

Do we need to choose to eat for brain health versus overall body health?  Not at all.  “We know that one of the main things we need to do is focus on heart health and the health of our blood vessels,” says Greenwood.  Our overall circulatory and body health is a powerful indicator of the future health of our brains – perhaps the clearest gauge we have at the present moment.

Foods Unique to the Brain: Omega-3s Are Key
“We know people are not achieving [the amounts of omega-3s] they need,” Dr. Greenwood says.

Are fatty acids from fish better than vegetarian sources like nuts?  All else being equal: yes.  The fatty acids coming from fish oils are more easily used as-is within the body than the shorter-chain molecules available from vegetarian sources, which need to be consumed in larger quantities for an equivalent effective dose.

Is mercury contamination in fish a concern?  “You need to trust that the FDA are monitoring this…and predicting the mercury content.” Bigger, older fish from species higher on the food chain can be expected to have more mercury, so the work of government regulatory bodies is key in keeping the most metal-laden fish off the market.

[Note from Jesse: It is also very possible to get highly-distilled bottled fish oil or fish oil capsules that are effectively mercury free.  Or for those who love real fish, “chelation,” which we’ll discuss in a later podcast, is an option for cleaning out heavy metals that have gotten into our bodies.]

The #1 Thing To Do For Your Diet
According to Dr. Greenwood, without question the best thing we can do to our diet – for both our brains and our bodies – is to increase our intake of fruits and vegetables.  The Standard North American Diet does not include nearly enough of the nutrients offered by these essential food staples – and generally replaces them with man-made chemicals and high-Glycemic Index filler that wreaks havoc on our bodies’ systems.

“We hear a lot about ‘super-foods’… but we don’t have any indication that any one fruit or vegetable is healthier [for humans] than any other,” said Greenwood as she discusses additional advice on overall caloric intake.

Obesity Correlated to Dementia
Greenwood explains the biology behind a positive correlation between present-day obesity and future dementia, and describes how the way you pace your eating throughout the day (smaller, frequent meals vs. few larger meals) can effect body and brain function.

Sugar, Ketones and Seizures
What does it mean to run your brain on fuel from your fat stores instead of your normal blood sugars?  Dr. Greenwood discusses glucose and ketones and how each can affect the brain and fuel our overall physiology.

This Week in Neuroscience: Controversy Over Cambridge University Findings

As many as 10% of UK students and 16% of US students are using performance enhancing drugs to improve academic results.  There’s concern that this gives an unfair advantage over other classmates and there is a thought that this could lead to drug testing for students. Is it an ethical issue or is it fair game?  Have an opinion? Email us here.  [Full Article]

Key Terms Mentioned


  1. ben says:

    While everyone agrees fruits/vegetables are the foundation of a good diet, would have been interesting to hear her take on more divisive topics, for example the whole saturated fats -> cholesterol -> heart disease , supplementing, etc.

    Also, I haven’t been able to find any evidence that adults skipping breakfast is a detriment, or that eating smaller meals throughout the day leads to lower weight. If anything, doesn’t the research show that someone gorging on a single meal a day, won’t consume as many calories as they would have eating 3 meals?

    In the RLRG, did modafinil (provigil) prices drop significantly from the time of this podcast?

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