08 August 2017


Can you imagine turning over a pack of cards, glancing at each card and then remembering each card in order? Can you believe at the recent World memory Championships the winner, Sweden’s Jonas Von Essen memorized the order of cards in 26 packs in one hour!!! Did you also know this dual memory world champion is a vegan?

So what diet and what exercises might help us mere mortals to improve our own memories, and what might hasten any memory losses? This week we find out courtesy of some fascinating recent research, but first

                      Thought for the day

       Finish each day and be done with it.
      You have done what you could.
      Some blunders, losses, and absurdities no doubt crept in;
      Forget them as soon as you can.

                                       Ralph Waldo Emerson

How do we exercise, or train our memory?
This is the “easy” bit in that Von Essen is very clear – we need to learn a good technique and practice. Fairly regularly if we want good progress. Sounds a bit like meditation!

Von Essen; “Mostly it is about learning the most efficient techniques, and once you know them,
simply training on using them faster and faster.

Basically, they are all based on the concept that you come up with images symbolizing the things that you want to remember and then “place” these images on different locations in a building or along a journey that you visualize in your head.

It probably sounds a bit odd, but once you get it you can memorize anything (in any quantity!) you want using this technique”.

Von Essen also recommends How to Develop a Brilliant Memory by Dominic O'Brien as a very good one. He says we need to try out a few techniques and examples to appreciate the power of this. There are also great forums on the Web, e.g., Mnemotechnics.org

How does food affect memory?

A lot! Here is some recent research that consistently points towards what we would be wise to eat if we are to minimize any risk of dementia and to feed a healthy and reliable memory.

Bad fats, young people and memory loss  

As young adults increase their intake of trans fat, memory worsens.

After analysing the diets and
memory of nearly seven hundred 20 to 45 year-old men, it was found that as trans fat intake increased, word recall decreased.

Findings were replicated in women.

Golomb BA, Bui AK. Trans fat consumption is adversely linked to memory in working-age adults. Research presented at: American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014; November 18, 2014: Chicago, Ill.

Large body of evidence links meat, dementia and Alzheimers

1. A review – diet is a major risk factor
Diet may be the most important risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease risk, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The author used dietary data from 10 countries and several other studies on diet and Alzheimer’s disease and assessed disease risk for several dietary factors.

Consumption of meat increased disease risk the most, followed by eggs and high-fat dairy, while high intakes of fruits, vegetables, and grains reduced the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Possible mechanisms include increased intakes of metal ions, such as copper, and saturated fat, both prevalent in meat.

Grant WB. Using multicountry ecological and observational studies to determine dietary risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. J Am Coll Nutr. Published online July 25, 2016.

2. Metabolic Syndrome Linked to Dementia
Metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors including high blood sugar and blood pressure and a large waistline, leads to dementia, according to a study published online in JAMA Neurology.

Those with diabetes, obesity, dyslipidemia, and other cardiovascular disease risk factors were up to four times as likely to develop dementia or experience cognitive decline.

Ng TP, Feng L, Nyunt MSZ, et al. Metabolic syndrome and the risk of mild cognitive impairment and progression to dementia. JAMA Neurol. Published online February 29, 2016.

3. Fat and refined carbs lead to a high risk
The intake of saturated fats and simple carbohydrates, two of the primary components of a modern Western diet, is linked with the development of obesity and Alzheimer's Disease.

This research shows how the Western diet is associated with cognitive impairment, with a specific emphasis on learning and memory functions that are dependent on the integrity of the hippocampus.

Also, saturated fat and simple carbohydrate intake is correlated with neurobiological changes in the hippocampus that may be related to the ability of these dietary components to impair cognitive function.

Finally, a model is described proposing that Western diet consumption contributes to the development of excessive food intake and obesity, in part, by interfering with a type of hippocampal-dependent memory inhibition that is critical in the ability of animals to refrain from responding to environmental cues associated with food, and ultimately from consuming energy intake in excess of that driven solely by caloric need.

Kanoski, S. E., & Davidson, T. L. (2011). Western Diet Consumption and Cognitive Impairment: Links to Hippocampal Dysfunction and Obesity. Physiology & Behavior103(1), 59–68. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.12.003

4. First randomized trial - Diet reduces cognitive decline in the elderly
Along with physical and mental exercise, diet may play a key role in the prevention of dementia, according to a study published in The Lancet. For two years, researchers tracked the cognitive health of 1,260 participants in the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study.

The intervention included diet, exercise, and cognitive training compared to a control group who received standard health care. Nutritionists advised participants in the intervention group to limit fat intake and increase fiber consumption via fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

The intervention group scored 25 percent higher on cognitive tests with a 150 percent increase in processing speed when compared to the control group. Intervention group participants also saw improvements in BMI and other health outcome measurements.

This is the first randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of a multifaceted intervention on dementia, and shows the important role preventive measures such as diet have in alleviating rising dementia rates worldwide.

Ngandu T, Lehtisalo J, Solomon A, et al. A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. Published online on March 11, 2015.

5. Midlife Obesity Increases Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
Obesity increases Alzheimer’s disease risk, according to a study in Molecular Psychiatry.

Researchers studied 1,394 participants of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and tracked their weight at age 50 and evidence of Alzheimer’s later on.

The results indicate that with an increase in weight, onset of Alzheimer’s disease occurred 6.7 months earlier than when compared to those who were not obese. Autopsies and scans also showed higher body weights resulted in more Alzheimer’s-specific deposits in the brain.

This study suggests that lifestyle changes earlier in life can influence the course of disease.

Chuang YF, An Y, Bilgel M, et al. Midlife adiposity predicts earlier onset of Alzheimer’s dementia, neuropathology and presymptomatic cerebral amyloid accumulation. Mol Psychiatry. Published online September 1, 2015.


Stress Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Stress may influence your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published by the British Medical Journal. Researchers tracked 800 women enrolled in the Prospective Population Study of Women for 37 years to investigate the effects of common psychosocial factors, such as divorce, relative’s illness, and job loss.

Psychiatric examinations, questionnaires, and other medical assessments linked midlife stressors with late-life dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

Johansson L, Guo X, Hallstrom T, et al. Common psychosocial stressors in middle-aged women related to longstanding distress and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a 38-year longitudinal population study. BMJ Open. 30 September 2013;3:e00314.

1. Dementia-and-Alzheimer’s-Disease-easily-explained?-Can-we-prevent-or-cure-them?

2. Alzheimer’s-Disease,-Type-3-Diabetes-and-its-causes

3. One dozen proven things you can do to prevent Alzheimer's disease



Bringing Mind and Heart Together  21 – 27th October 2017 Ruth and Ian Gawler with Liz Stilwell

Amidst the tranquil beauty of the Coromandel Peninsula, 2 hours from Auckland New Zealand

A mind with no heart is cold and empty.      A mind with heart is warm, creative and full of potential.

Ready to learn how to use meditation and Guided Imagery to open your heart and bring balance to your mind?                       

Join us for this very special retreat!   LINK HERE


The delight of teaching others one of the most useful things possible ...

This training, led by Ian and Ruth personally, is based on a comprehensive and fully documented manual. You will learn how to teach two 4 week programs - one featuring guided imagery, the other contemplation; both covering the stillness of meditation as well. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.




Accessing the heart and science of Mind-Body Medicine
Offering genuine hope for all those affected by cancer

20 – 24 November 2017 with Drs Ruth and Ian Gawler

Located amidst the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley

This life-changing program provides the opportunity to experience the food, practise the meditation and to be in a supportive, positive atmosphere. The program is evidence based, highly experiential and practical. The focus is on the therapeutic power of the Healing Diet, the mind and meditation, emotional health and positive psychology. The aim is to provide clarity, understanding and confidence.   LINK HERE

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