FOOD FOR THOUGHT—NUTRIENTS FOR BRAIN HEALTH

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Your brain is powerful. You can even use it to think about how the brain itself works. Crazy, right? But this power doesn’t make your brain immune to factors that impact the rest of your body. Lifestyle and environment can affect your brain health. Luckily, there are nutrients for brain health shown to support cognitive function.
Lipids
For a long time, dietary fats (lipids) have been connected to brain health. Originally, lipids’ effect on the cardiovascular system was thought to facilitate that connection. But more recent research shows dietary fats have more direct actions on the brain.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like DHA from fish oil) normally make up cell membranes throughout your body. And like other saturated fat, they’re fundamental building blocks for your brain cells. That’s part of the reason fish is often called a brain food.
Flavonoids
The antioxidant effects of flavonoids are well-established in a test-tube setting. But these plant compounds—like cocoa, ginkgo, and grape-seed extracts—have more complex actions in the body that is continually being researched.
Some flavonoids show promising results in maintaining healthy brain function. Quercetin—a flavonoid that’s a major component of ginkgo biloba extracts—has been shown to maintain memory and learning abilities in some studies. Further research on the subject is needed.
B Vitamins
Adequate levels of the B vitamin folate are essential for brain function. The proof? Folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, like depression and cognitive impairment.
Clinical trial results have deepened the connection between folate and cognitive function. These studies have shown folate supplementation—by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins (B6 and B12)—to be effective at maintaining healthy cognitive function during aging.
Other Nutrients
There are more nutrients for brain health. Here’s a short list of the other nutrients with researched roles in brain health:
Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to maintain memory and cognitive function.
Vitamin E, or α-tocopherol, has also been implicated in cognitive performance. Decreasing serum levels of vitamin E were associated with poor memory performance in older individuals.
Curcumin is a strong antioxidant that seems to protect the brain from lipid peroxidation and nitric-oxide-based radicals.
Several gut hormones or peptides—like leptin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) and insulin—have been found to support healthy emotional response and cognitive processes.
Energy Production
The brain runs your body. And it takes a lot of energy to literally be the brain of the operation. Healthy macronutrients are necessary to fuel your brain and provide the energy it needs.

The mechanisms involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function. Processes that are associated with the management of energy in neurons can affect brain plasticity.
Far-Reaching Impacts
Lifestyle and diet have long-term effects on your health. That means they are likely underestimated for their importance to public health—especially when it comes to healthy aging. But they’re important to your brain. The gradual and sometimes imperceptible cognitive decline that characterizes normal aging can be influenced by the nutrients you feed your brain through a healthy diet.
These impacts go beyond your life, too. Through epigenetics, you pass on traits to your children and their children. Newer studies back this up. They indicate that these nutritional effects on your brain might even be transmitted over generations by influencing epigenetic events.

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How Gadgets and Digital Screens Are Harming Your Child

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How Gadgets and Digital Screens Are Harming Your Child

The amount of time children spend watching digital screens is worrying. Children don’t seem to get tired of watching TV or playing with the iPad. This obsession with gadgets is a matter of concern, but the immediate worry is about its adverse impact on their vision.
Why gadgets and kids don’t mix well
Kids use gadgets for playing games, chatting, browsing or watching movies. The activity is usually so involving that they don’t take their attention off the screen. They also don’t pay attention to things like posture, screen distance, and brightness, which can adversely affect their vision and health.

Staring at electronic screens for extended periods causes discomfort. You suffer from dry eyes, eye irritation and find it difficult to focus for a while. Spending too much time in one posture can also result in neck and back ache. If you are finding it difficult to cope with screen time, imagine what your child’s eyes must be going through.
Digital screens have become an inseparable part of life. You can’t wish them away or keep kids away from them, but you can minimize their impact on your children. The first step is to understand what you are up against.

The consequences of too much screen time
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average child spends about 8 hours a day watching electronic screens. Gadget use among kids increases with age. Although it cannot be said with certainty, research indicates that children spending too much time staring at screens are at higher risk of long-term vision problems. Apart from televisions and video games, most gadgets came in the last two decades. While the immediate effects on children can be observed, their long-term effects are unknown.
According to researchers, children who spend a lot of time with gadgets are likely to develop temporary myopia (nearsightedness). Fortunately, the effect is transient and the eyes recover a few minutes after they switch to a non-screen activity.
The effect of spending a lot of time watching screens is not limited to the eyes alone. Apart from symptoms like dry eyes, burning sensation, double vision and blurry vision, people also complain of headaches and posture-related problems like neck and back pain. Doctors now call this set of symptoms as “computer vision syndrome”.

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When people use electronic screens, they blink less. On an average, a person blinks about 15 times in a minute. Due to the high attention required while using an electronic screen, this rate can drop to less than 5 times in a minute.

Blinking is a natural mechanism that keeps the eyes moist, lubricated and clean. A lower blink rate causes dry eyes and irritation. The severity varies according to the type of activity and the level of engagement. A video game, therefore, creates more eyestrain because you have to constantly watch and respond to what is happening on screen. Desktop computers and wall-mounted televisions can make it worse because they make you look upwards. This makes you open your eyes wider and expose more surface area of the eye to evaporation.

Electronic screens can generate images with a lot of brightness and contrast and they can vary these images in a fraction of a second. They also reflect glare from surrounding light sources like lamps and windows. Your eyes have to frequently respond to changing light levels. Watching a screen that is too dim or bright compared to the surroundings also causes eye strain. Your eyes have to adjust when you switch from the screen to the surroundings. The frequent dilation and contraction of pupils results in eye fatigue.
Most modern gadgets come with LED screens because they produce clearer pictures and consume less power. The amount of blue light emitted by these screens is a matter of concern. LED screens emit a lot more blue light compared to LCD screens. Although research is limited, many optometrists suspect that blue light can cause irreversible damage to the retina. This can increase the risk of macular degeneration and cataract.
The macula is the central part of the retina and is crucial to good vision. Macular degeneration can make daily activities like reading and driving impossible. With age, the lenses of the eyes start to yellow. For adults, this provides a limited natural defense against blue light, but children are vulnerable. Blue light can also interfere with the biological clock and affect sleep.

Protecting children from the adverse impacts of electronic screens

If your child complains of burning eyes, you must review the amount of time they are spending with gadgets. Here are some tips that will help.

Limit screen time
Limit the amount of time your children spend watching TV. Limit other gadget time to an hour a day for small children and two hours a day for school going children. Break this allowance into two or three sessions to reduce eye strain.

Encourage children to play outdoors
Gadgets encourage sedentary habits which are bad for the body and mind. Encourage children to spend some time outdoors for activities that require them to move about and interact with other children. Playing outdoors with the dog or other kids is more fun than watching an animation movie for the umpteenth time. Spending time outdoors also exercises long distance vision and reduces the chances of myopia.
Don’t use gadgets as babysitters
Keeping your children busy with gadgets or TV may allow you to do whatever you want in peace, but it’s a bad idea. Instead, keep them occupied with healthier alternatives like creative toys, coloring books or storybooks.

Ensure that your child gets adequate sleep
Children should sleep for about 10 hours a day. Sleep allows the eyes to recover from strain.

Ask them to take regular breaks and blink often.
To prevent dry eyes, ask your child to blink two to three times whenever their eyes begin to hurt. Eye strain can be reduced by taking small breaks to look at something other than the screen. Most opticians advocate the 20-20-20 rule. Take a break every 20 minutes and focus on something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Ensure that kids maintain the right distance from the screen
While using a computer or other personal device, the eye should be at least 20 inches away from the screen. Don’t let children sit too close while watching TV. If your child prefers to sit close to the screen, get his or her eyes tested to rule out myopia.

Don’t let them use gadgets in the dark or in sunlight
Kids may not pay attention to lighting conditions when they are engrossed in an activity. Discourage the use of gadgets in a dark room or in bright sunlight. Screen brightness should not be three times darker or brighter than the surroundings. If the device has an auto-brightness mode, enable it. This automatically adjusts screen brightness according to ambient light.

Digital screens cause eyestrain and other related symptoms like vision difficulties and headache. Kids are more vulnerable than adults and spending too much time with gadgets can affect their vision. It is difficult to keep children away from gadgets, but you can take steps to minimize the adverse effects.

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