If you want to keep your brain young and sharp – and who doesn’t – what should you feed it?
I have written many times about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, oily fish, olive oil and nuts – and now another study published two weeks ago found that people who follow it, the amyloid plaques and tau tangled in their brains associated with Alzheimer’s disease eat less than those who do not.
But how about branching out and trying something completely different—how about feeding your brain nutrients from someone else’s blood?
Although controversial, there is growing evidence of the benefits of infusing young people with blood, and I have recently seen some of these benefits first hand.
Human blood is exceptionally good. It is full of cells that support, protect and regenerate our bodies.
Human blood is full of cells that support, protect and regenerate our bodies, with transfusions saving millions of lives
There is growing evidence of the benefits of blood transfusions in young people, writes Dr. Michael Mosley
Blood transfusions from healthy donors have saved millions of lives, and now new research suggests that injections of young blood in particular have the potential to repair our aging brains.
The idea that blood has magical properties is not new. In Roman times, the sick, especially those with epilepsy, were encouraged to go to gladiatorial fights to try to drink the blood of a newly killed gladiator.
And then, of course, there is the legend of Count Dracula, who feeds on human blood and transforms a white-headed old man into a dark-haired super-athlete. Surprisingly, there appears to be some science to this.
Studies in mice have shown that infusing an old mouse with the blood of a young mouse makes their bodies stronger and their brains younger: they run longer on a treadmill, are better in mazes and find their way to food much faster than before the blood transfusion.
Creepy enough, the opposite is also true. If you transfer blood from an old mouse to a young mouse, they will weaken and show signs of premature memory loss.
Tech billionaires in the US capitalized on these findings and funded research into which young blood causes these changes. And it worries very understandably.
Last summer, while I was in the US filming a series about aging, I saw a TV drama called Blood Boy, which depicts a future where billionaires buy attractive young men – “transfusion partners” – for regular IVs of taking anti-aging drugs. have blood ready.
Overcoming the paradox of obesity
Britain is getting fatter and unhealthier, with more and more people developing serious conditions such as heart disease.
But in what has been called the obesity paradox, studies have shown that being overweight (unless you’re severely obese) has surprisingly little effect on your chances of dying prematurely, and may actually be protective.
Now, Professor Ryan Masters, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, has shown that such results are skewed by using BMI – which does not reflect your body fat or how long you’ve been overweight (the damage done by being overweight accumulates more than time).
When he recomposed the numbers with this in mind, there was no obesity paradox: the higher the BMI, the worse the health outcomes once outside the healthy range.
Is this a grotesque idea? Certainly. But on that same trip, I also saw some of the potential benefits of young blood transfusions when used in a medical context when I met Terri, a 63-year-old Californian with Parkinson’s disease.
A few years ago, she participated in a Stanford University-led study in which Parkinson’s patients received twice-weekly plasma transfusions (the liquid part of your blood) from young volunteers, that is, under 30 years of age.
It was just a small study (with 15 participants) that lasted eight weeks to see if regular transfusions were safe enough to warrant a larger study, but it did lead to improvements in language and mental health.
As Terri told me, “I felt more energized afterwards. I felt more normal, back to myself, not Parkinson’s itself, but my old self. So I loved it.’
Other studies are now investigating whether the transfusion of young plasma can help other common brain disorders, such as dementia.
The preferred donors in these studies are often men under the age of 30 because their stem cells (stem cells that can turn into a variety of other cells) are more potent—and when it comes to things like a bone marrow transplant, that can lead to better clinical outcomes.
Frequent transfusions of young blood to the elderly are clearly not practical, let alone ethical. Therefore, the quest began to identify and replicate the beneficial components without the need to use real blood.
A few weeks ago, Harvard University researchers took a major step forward by revealing that they had identified many of the key genes that are turned on or off after a plasma transfusion.
The genes they identified are important in the regulation of stress, injury and inflammation, particularly in the brain. So it appears that the benefits of transfusions come from changing these genes.
And it ties in with the findings of another study published in February by US scientists, which showed that giving mice an anti-inflammatory drug, commonly given to people with arthritis, helped their blood-producing cells repair cells.
So promising research is being done, although there is still work to be done before we really understand what young blood does to our brains.
Meanwhile, I warned my kids that if I got really dizzy, I could come ask for some of their plasma. The four must make it.
Eyes really ARE a window to the soul
A study has shown that measuring the way people’s pupils dilate and contract can be used to determine their emotional intelligence
When I was a pimply teenager, I read an article that said you could tell if a girl liked you by the size of her pupils – they would dilate to show interest.
Of course, this is not an infallible test, and trying to determine pupil size in a busy bar by staring maniacally into someone’s eyes is unlikely to produce a successful result.
However, a study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports found that measuring the way people’s pupils dilate and contract is a surprisingly effective measure of their emotional intelligence.
The study measured participants’ pupil size while they listened to a recorded story – showing that some people are “super-synchronisers”, so attuned to the emotional content of a story that their pupils dilate and contract with it. The hope is that this research will lead to new insights into autism and other disorders that make it difficult for people to communicate.
It can also improve people’s love lives, as the same researchers have shown that making and breaking eye contact, a popular form of flirting, causes your pupils to contract and dilate in time with the other person, making you more interesting –’ a tip that would have been useful to me 50 years ago.
Do you need to relax? Try petting a cat
A recent study found that cats rank very highly as stress killers, especially when they are “highly stressed.”
Anyone who has a dog knows they are a great stress reliever – and there’s plenty of evidence for that.
For example, a study in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine showed that five minutes of petting or just visiting a dog was enough to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in emergency room staff.
But what about cats? They seem much more distant, which is one reason why they rarely appear in stress reduction studies.
However, a recent survey of over 1,200 people in Belgium found that cats are actually highly rated as a stress killer, especially when they are “very stressed”.
I can identify with that. We used to have a Siamese cat named Finn who reached the proud age of 19 years.
While our dog Tari has always preferred my wife Clare (she’s the one who feeds her), Finn sought me out and crawled on my lap purring happily as he let me pet him before he left – which made me very happy has.
But petting a cat that doesn’t want to be petted can be quite the hissy fit. When it comes to human-cat interactions, cats have the upper hand.
Crystal Leahy is an author and health journalist who writes for The Fashion Vibes. With a background in health and wellness, Crystal has a passion for helping people live their best lives through healthy habits and lifestyles.