Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aging, Weight Loss and Mental Sharpness

Yesterday I talked about how important getting sufficient protein every day is to our health, our appearance and for weight loss success.

Today I'm going to talk, quite unscientifically, about something that I've observed that I believe is at least partially attributable to NOT getting enough protein on a regular basis.

First, imagine you get up and you wait hours before eating. Maybe you have a cup of coffee or tea. Then perhaps you have some cereal or toast...or something sweeter perhaps. How are feeling about 10:30 or11am? Probably feeling a bit sluggish and a bit foggy mentally. You may even feel that earlier in the day.

What do you do at that point? If you are like most folks you grab some sugar and maybe some (more) caffeine thinking that will solve the problem. And your blood sugar spikes and you do get some energy. Temporarily.

Problem is you are only addressing symptoms, not the real cause.

The cause is that you haven't really fueled your body with the most important thing it needs--protein!

This might not be a big problem if you do this once in a while...but over time what happens is your body loses lean body mass as we talked about yesterday.

I contend that this affects our brain as much as it does the rest of our body. We lose our mental abilities...we become more and more foggy.

My evidence? Well, not a scientific study to be sure, but I have seen it in my own family. Right now I am seeing the results in my mother who is 80 years old...(I wish I could say 80 years "young"...but can't.)

While I recognize we are blessed that she is pretty healthy and doesn't suffer from Alzheimer's or Dementia...I also see this once super-intelligent woman reduced to being in a fog much of the time. What concerns me even more is that on the one hand she recognizes this reduction in her abilities and yet she is not willing or able to help herself do anything about it.

My mother has only rarely been overweight in her life. And when she deemed herself to be "fat" she rigidly dieted. For her it was a "simple" matter of pushing herself away from the table while still hungry. (I inherited neither her metabolism nor her diet discipline.)

Well, my mother has dropped lots of weight over the last couple of years.

The science is that typically for every decade past our 40th year we lose 8% of our lean body mass. That would mean my mom would have 32% less lean body mass than she used if her entire 40 year old 140 pound body was lean body mass (which of course, it wouldn't have been) and we took away 32% of that she would be about 120 pounds today...all things being equal.

Mom is currently about 110 pounds...when a healthy weight for her would be closer to 130-140. It seems as her body gets smaller and smaller so does her mental capacity. So, the notion that one can "never be too thin" is pure fiction...dangerous fiction at that!

My conclusion, as unscientific as it may be, is that she has definitely lost too much weight, especially lean body mass, and that this loss has affected her mental ability...and therefore I for one am going to be doubly sure to eat sufficient protein multiple times a day every day.

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