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The secret life of the middle-aged brain

If you drafted a list of New Year’s resolutions, and then forgot where you put it, don’t be alarmed. It may very well be that you’re not having a senior moment … your brain just may have been busy with something else it had to do instead of remembering where you left your list.  In fact, in some scenarios our brains actually become more efficient as we age. That is one of the very reassuring findings in a new book, “The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind.”

Author Barbara Strauch is the health and medical science editor at The New York Times. We invited her to come to our studio to share her findings with those of us born before LBJ took office.



  • David F., N.A.

    I was wondering if Ms. Strauch’s book talks about dairy products. I’m in my early 50’s and for the past 3 or 4 years my short term memory had been deteriorating pretty badly. I wasn’t drinking much milk, or eating cheese or butter, but I was gobbling down at least a gallon of ice cream every week. This was making me pretty worried until I had a physical in October. This was when I had my blood tested, and found that my cholesterol was 240 and my blood sugar was becoming close to borderline diabetic. So I went cold-turkey on the ice cream, plus my doctor put me on Zocor. Then two months later (3 weeks ago), I had my blood tested again and my cholesterol went down to 130. I was pretty sure my blood levels would be drastically better, but what really surprised me was that I was beginning to remember things again. Now I not only know what I had for dinner last night, but I can tell you what I had 2 and 3 nights ago as well. This led me to research alzheimer’s and dairy products. I’m still looking, but, so far, this site is the best that I’ve found: .

  • David F., N.A.

    This webpage ( ) brought my attention to the February 14, 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 346:476-483, Number 7) ( ). It’s about high homocysteine levels in the bloodstream might be related to Alzheimer’s.

    This article also supports the theory:

    “For example, vitamin B12 and folate are homocysteine-related vitamins that may have an impact on Alzheimer’s disease via their ability of reducing circulating homocysteine levels, vitamin E might prevent Alzheimer’s disease via its strong antioxidant effect, and fatty acids may be related to dementia and cognitive function through atherosclerosis, thrombosis, or inflammation via an effect on brain development and membrane functioning or via accumulation of beta-amyloid,” write researcher Yian Gu, PhD, of Columbia University and colleagues.

    It also mentions this diet:

    The diet included low amounts of high-fat dairy products, red meat, organ meat, and butter. Foods in this diet that appeared to fight Alzheimer’s disease were salad dressing, nuts, fish, poultry, tomatoes, fruits, and cruciferous and dark and green vegetables.

    With the exception of massive amounts of ice cream, this has been basically much my diet. I guess now I need to read more about Dr. Gu’s research.

  • sparky

    excellent…now we have the truth!!! not the crap people put out to support their pocket book! proverbs 3:5-6….sparky…JESUS IS LORD!

  • sparky

    about time the truth comes out… the other bs that is being put out is to line the pockets of the so called professionals!!!sparky…JESUS IS LORD!

  • Yvettemlantz

    Dude, not dairy necessarily, but think of the impaired circulation to brain and all other organs from the high cholesterol and high blood sugar! Too much fat and sugar, have you tasted the commericial ice creams?

  • David F., N.A.

    This article sounds like what I experienced, but instead of going from a high to a low dairy diet it attributes a better memory to weight loss, in general. I’m not exactly sure, but I think I lost about 10 pounds during that 2 month period.

    Losing weight comes with a host of health benefits — including making your brain sharper.

    Yes, it turns out that in addition to being bad for your heart, carrying excess weight may impair cognitive functions such as memory and attention. Losing weight, therefore, may help improve these mental functions, according to new research led by John Gunstad, assistant professor of psychology at Kent State University, and reported in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

    A growing body of evidence suggests that obesity is linked to cognitive deficits, and it is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and stroke. So Gunstad and his team speculated that losing weight might improve mental function. For their study, they measured memory and attention in a group of 150 overweight participants, some of whom underwent gastric bypass surgery for weight loss and some who did not. All of the volunteers completed mental-skills tests to assess their baseline abilities of recall and attention at the beginning of the study, and again 12 weeks later, after some of them had the operation and lost weight.

    To begin with, about 24% of the patients showed impaired learning and 23% showed signs of poor memory recall when tested. By the end of the study, those who had lost weight (on average they shed about 17% of their initial body weight) had boosted their scores into the average or above average range for cognitive functions. Scores for the volunteers who didn’t undergo weight-loss surgery dropped even further.

  • Amanda Desjadon

    “most smartest” She needs a grammer class.