Fight Forgetfulness With Food: Guinness Memory Record Holder Says Diet Key To Better Remembering

Picture this: You’re at the grocery store hurriedly picking up dinner for the family, when you lock eyes with a familiar face. You have met this person. You know this person. Are they an old friend from high school? A fellow PTA? You cannot place them. “Please don’t say that,” you think. Not a good time for awkward conversations. Disaster awaits you at home if you don’t return soon. And now you’re left with the gnawing dilemma of trying to figure out who in the world this familiar “stranger” is, while kicking yourself for having such a cloudy memory. It’s an all-too-familiar scenario for many of us, especially in middle age.

It’s not unusual to forget a name (or items on the shopping list). They were all forgetful from time to time, but frequent cognitive difficulties can be bothersome. Could it be early onset dementia? What if you were told that your poor memory isn’t a cognitive decline, but just a consequence of the food you eat? Scientists are increasingly discovering that cognitive function is related to diet. Yes, what you eat affects the way you think.StudyFinds spoke with mDave Farrow, emotion expert, author and two-time Guinness World Record holder for memory.

With years of experience learning how to train your brain to improve function and memory, Farrow knows firsthand how diet plays a critical role in this.

Dave Farrow, Guinness World Record for memory

Unforgettable formula: bad diet = poor memory

We can all probably agree that sugar has a negative impact on our health and can make us feel cognitively sluggish, but this also extends to artificial sugars. A recent study conducted by Florida State University School of Medicine researchers found that aspartame appears to have a link to learning and memory problems in mice. The mice in the study were divided into three groups for four months. One group drank only water, the second group consumed water with aspartame equivalent to two diet sodas per day, and the third group drank water with aspartame equivalent to four diet sodas per day. Mice were tasked with finding a safe box among 40 boxes. Mice that did not receive aspartame found the box relatively quickly, while those that consumed the sweetener took much longer.

Although artificial sweeteners are bad for the brain, Farrow points out how a diet full of processed ingredients can play a key role in memory loss. He says that sugars, oils and refined carbohydrates can be particularly harmful to cognitive function. You have to watch out for refined sugars and oils, things like canola oil, margarine, as opposed to butter and olive oil, that kind of thing, he says.

Sugar is known to provide a jolt of energy followed by a lethargic period. A study conducted at Aarhus University in Denmark shows that sugar actually influences our brain’s reward centers in the same way that addictive drugs do. Simply put, eating high-sugar diets can affect our cognitive functions from memory to our ability to concentrate.

Sugars hide in unexpected places like refined flour. “So if you eat pasta every day, or eat a lot of bread every day,” Farrow says, “you’re essentially lowering your insulin levels constantly, and that affects your mind’s ability to focus.

The Mediterranean diet could be the best for the brain

Farrow warns that there is a trickle-down effect when executive and cognitive functions slow down. It can even affect our mental health. You might even think you have things like depression, anxiety, memory loss, all that kind of stuff. And a change in diet makes a big difference,” he says.

And according to related studies, he’s right. Many studies show that mental health can start in the gut.

Researchers believe that the Mediterranean diet can help people with poor mental health by helping them release serotonin in the gut. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood, appetite, sleep and other physiological functions of the body. Because the Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains (and excludes processed foods, sugars, and fast food), studies show that it can help ease symptoms of depression. Additionally, this organic diet has also been linked to a lower incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and overall mental well-being.

Happy couple eating at restaurant on a date
You’ve heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Perhaps the sentence should be updated to read, “Your memory is what you eat.” (Joshua Resnick – stock.adobe.com)

Memory loss is not only related to what we eat though when we eat. Research suggestsa time-restricted feeding schedule may also promote stronger memory and lead to less accumulation of amyloid protein in the brain, a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Intermittent fasting has gained popularity as a means of losing weight. It involves limiting meals to a certain window of time. Often, adults who use the fast method for about 14 hours each day.

However, many people may find that intermittent fasting is too difficult to successfully follow this form of diet. Instead, Farrow suggests a 48-hour sugar fast.

One of the things you may not realize is that when you eat sugar, there are microbes in your gut that eat that sugar and secrete a substance that makes you crave more sugar. Just get rid of refined flour and refined sugar for about two days. A lot of those microbes will die,” he says.

That doesn’t mean your body won’t experience intense sugar cravings. Finding healthy options like berries or other fruit to fill the void is a great way to keep cravings at bay. And when that happens, you give your brain a cognitive boost, and you might just be able to recognize that unfamiliar but familiar face in the supermarket.

Brainhacker by Dave Farrow

Farrow earned his Guinness World Records by remembering the exact order of 59 shuffled decks of cards. He has since shared his tactics coining “The Farrow Memory Method,” which he describes in his book. Brainhacker. In addition to diet, his book reveals tips, tricks and methods to improve memory and cognitive performance.

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