We would all like to be able to remember better. The following piece offers a potential brain hack to improve your memory ability.
Dietary restriction has repeatedly been show to increase life span in a wide range of organism. However, there has not been much research on humans and therefore many question the use of dietary restriction because of the lack of human data.
Life span studies in humans take a long time and I would think are expensive. However, shorter term studies of dietary restriction in humans are beginning to be published.
Witte et. al., 2009 took 50 healthy mature adults with an average age of 60 in put them into three groups: control, a group that increased their unsaturated fat (the good fat) intake 20% (total fat intake stayed the same), and a 30% calorie restricted group. Memory performance was tested before the intervention and after 3 months being in their designated groups.
Interestingly, the 30% dietary restricted group only lost around 2.5% of their body weight even after being on the restricted diet for 3 months (that would only be 5 pounds if they started out at 200 lbs).
More importantly the 30% dietary restricted group was the only was that showed an improvement in memory (auditory verbal learning task). The researchers were a bit surprised because they were expecting the 20% increase in unsaturated fat group would also improve (next time they will more specifically try to increase the unsaturated fat intake with predominantly increasing fish consumption).
For the dietary restricted group improvement in memory correlated with a decrease in fasting insulin levels, and a decrease in high sensitive C-reactive protein.
I wish the authors had included the raw scores on the memory task (instead of just % of memory improvement) to see if one group started higher or lower than the rest - I assume they all started the same but this was not clearly stated.
And I find it a bit hard to believe that the subjects in the 30% calorie restricted group really were restricted 30% if they only lost 2.5% of their body weight after 3 months.
One could possibly argue there was a placebo effect for those that were put into the dietary restricted group, but this is somewhat countered by the fact that the other intervention group (the 20% increase in unsaturated fats) did not see an improvement in memory.
In healthy late middle aged folks who are ‘normal to overweight’ (BMI in the average range of 27 -29) 30% calorie restriction results in an improvement in memory scores in as little as 3 months time. There you go, human data supporting the beneficial effects of eating less, and who doesn’t want better memory (but will you pay the price).
Even if you are not going to do some form of dieatary restriction try to keep your fasting insulin levels low (at least eat low glycemic food). By lowering your fasting insulin levels you will increase your insulin sensitivity. Also try to alter your lifestyle and diet to reduce your levels of inflammation.