How can I maintain mental
clarity and efficiency as I get older?
What do 678 nuns have
to say to healthy hedonists?
The 678 nuns of the School
Sisters of Notre Dame nuns are participating in a landmark
study of Alzheimer's disease.
The study results so far show
that nuns who attended college, read often, do puzzles and
express positive outlooks on life seem to fend off the
symptoms of the disease more successfully. This was proven by
one nun whose brain, after her death, was riddled with
Alzheimer's plaques, yet she had remained mentally active and
showed no signs of dementia before she died of a heart attack.
The nuns were asked to
participate in the study because they share many similarities
in lifestyle and diet. These similarities allow researchers to
assess a fewer number of variables than in most
The long term study, which
started in 1986, has already found that upbeat attitudes and
mentally active lifestyles can forestall many of the
devastating effects of the disease.
Since the study began, the nuns
agreed to take mental tests, fill out questionnaires and
donate their brains after they die. The brains will be
examined for the telltale plaque and tangles that are the
definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer's disease. The common joke
at the nuns' retirement home is that their souls will go to
heaven, but their brains will go to Kentucky, more
specifically, the University of Kentucky which is conducting
The study results have been
described in a book called Aging with Grace by David Snowden,
the researcher who launched the study.
Other research is showing that
even mild nutritional deficiency can cause subtle changes in
brain chemistry and mental ability that affects mood, mind,
memory and behavior.
According to Jeffrey Bland,
Ph.D., one of the world's foremost researchers in the field of
human nutrition, "oxygen rich tissues of the brain can be
damaged by free radicals…if they are not adequately
detoxified by the liver." As the liver's detoxification
processes are nutritionally driven, the correlation between
diet and liver and brain function is strong. The good news is
that healthy hedonism is all about finding the tasty,
convenient ways to make this happen, and you don't have to
live like a nun either!