Someone once observed that the best drugstore is the one located inside your body. When your body manufactures its own natural health-boosting compounds, you benefit from substances that prescription medicines can’t match.
Among the substances the body makes for itself is one that protects the brain from problems like Alzheimer’s disease. And with a few tweaks to your lifestyle, you can persuade your body to make more of this precious compound.
One of those tweaks is to avoid nighttime snacks. Keep reading for the full story…
This chemical is called β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Technically, it is termed an “endogenous metabolite.” The term endogenous means it’s something the body generates for itself. Metabolites are substances made naturally within the body’s cells.
BHB is also what is known as a ketone body – a substance produced by the liver for the cells to use as energy when blood sugar (glucose) drops and cells aren’t being supplied with their normal amount. 1
Ketone bodies are particularly important for keeping the brain and muscles (including the heart muscle) functioning when carbohydrates are not available in sufficient quantities.
BHB also reduces inflammation, by slowing the activity of a protein called NLRP3, which forms part of a set of proteins called the inflammasome. One of the actions of the inflammasome is associated with the type of inflammation that leads to heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
According to research conducted at Yale2, you can induce your body to make more BHB by fasting. BHB levels also increase when you perform high intensity exercise, minimize the amount of food you eat or consume a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet.
Late Night Eating Not a Good Idea
Along with increasing your supply of BHB, eating little or nothing can come in handy when you stay up late at night – at that time, fasting aids your brain’s ability to focus and stay alert.
A study at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that when we stay up later than usual for work, driving home or other activities, we tend to indulge in late night snacking that averages about 500 extra calories3.
But the study shows that if you do not eat at all while you’re burning the midnight oil, your mental performance improves.
In the tests, which lasted four nights during which people stayed up until four in the morning, the participants who fasted instead of snacking reaped the benefit of faster reaction times and were better able to focus their attention.
That can come in handy when you’re finishing up a work assignment or maneuvering your car on a late-night drive.
Of course a healthier way to keep your brain in good working order is to avoid missing out on sleep. Get to bed at a reasonable hour each night and don’t eat during the hours between dinner and bedtime.
If you still feel tempted to skimp on sleep, heed a warning from a study at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology4. By looking at how our genetic material behaves on a cellular level, the researchers found that merely missing one night’s sleep makes your brain – and the rest of your body – age faster.
“Our data support the hypothesis that one night of not getting enough sleep in older adults activates important biological pathways that promote biological aging,” warns researcher Judith Carroll, Ph.D.
I know that today’s 24-hour digitized lifestyle encourages nonstop eating and online connection. But if you can put down your fork and smartphone in the evening and make it your top priority to get enough sleep, you’ll find you can prolong the health and well-being of your brain.
- http://www.journalsleep.org/Resources/Documents/2015AbstractSupplement.pdf abstract 317
- http://www.journalsleep.org/Resources/Documents/2015AbstractSupplement.pdf, abstract 082