So the older I get, the stupider I feel. Not that I’m actually stupider than I was before; it’s more that I keep realizing over and over again how stupid I’ve been all along.
You’d think all the reading, writing, researching and stuff that I do would make me feel smarter, but it actually has the opposite effect because I’m always talking to or reading stuff by people who are way more intelligent than I am. It’s hard to keep up.
Does that make any sense? It probably doesn’t make sense because I’m too dumb to get my point across.
So I’m wondering if you can make yourself smarter, beyond taking ginkgo, I mean.
A couple of years ago, a BBC show took 100 participants and changed their diet and lifestyle and gave them exercises like showering in the dark over the course of a week. The subjects saw an impressive improvement in intelligence in just seven days. So maybe there’s hope after all!
What the experts say
“We took 100 people, changed their exercise regime and diet and gave them various little tricks [i.e., eat five portions of fruit and vegetables, take two relaxation breaks of 10 minutes, complete one hour of brain exercises spread across the day, have a conversation with someone you wouldn’t usually speak to], and they all improved considerably. The feedback from these people was also that they felt better, fresher and brighter.”
MATTHEW WORTHY, producer, BBC’s Get Smarter In A Week, London, England
“The first thing people should do is watch what they’re eating. Research shows that trans fats can weaken the blood-brain barrier, allowing more toxins to enter the brain, affecting your mental capacity. Avoid neurotoxins like many food colourings and preservatives. Eat at least half a cup of blueberries daily; they contain phytonutrients that have been found to protect the brain and increase mental capacity. Wild salmon is an excellent food, high in omega-3 fatty acids, as are flaxseeds. Flax can have a damaging effect on the brain if heated, though. People get about a 20:1 to 40:1 ration of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, when the ratio should be 1:1 or at the most 2:1. This imbalance causes inflammation, which in the brain is linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and mental decline. Dancing has been shown to activate different centres in people’s brains and create more coordination between brain cells. The more you exercise, the more oxygen your brain is getting.”
MICHELLE SCHOFFRO COOK, natural health consultant, author, The Brain Wash, Ottawa
“One of the critical fats for brain is choline, because it’s one of the building blocks for acetylcholine, aka ‘the brain’s memory manager.’ We can synthesize the bare minimum in our liver, but not enough to have optimal brain function. Women’s reserves are depleted during pregnancy and lactation (hence the term ‘pregnancy brain’). Animal studies have shown that supplementing choline during pregnancy results in lifelong memory enhancement for the offspring. The really worrying thing is that the two rich sources we had in our diet, egg yolks and liver, have been demonized, and cutting out those foods will have detrimental effects on the brain. Full-fat tofu also provides choline. Protein enhances dopamine, so it’s important to be eating small amounts at every meal. What interferes with brain function is a high glycemic load.”
AILEEN BURFORD MASON, nutrionist, immunologist, Toronto
“IQ certainly doesn’t remain stable throughout your whole life. It’s basically your ability to function in a complicated environment. Some people are better at it than others – they think quicker – but you can improve through various methods. Find your area of weakness – verbal, conceptual or spatial – and try to work in that particular area. Most of us are drawn toward working at things we’re good at, but high-achieving people work on their areas of weakness. Caffeine enhances performance, but the problem with caffeine is that it stimulates arrhythmias in some and makes others nervous.”
RICHARD RESTAK, clinical professor of neurology, George Washington Hospital University School of Medicine, author, Mozart’s Brain And The Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential, Washington DC