Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is mentioned in the literature and by many experts as one of the most important neurotrophins in the brain. What makes BDNF so interesting is the influence this protein has on our health, and how you can stimulate, and maintain, levels in the body. If you want to place a level of importance on BDNF then turn on the green light, or place a 4 out of 4 stars ranking.
BDNF influences the health of existing central and peripheral nerve cells, the growth of new nerve cells(neurogenesis) and their synapses, as wells as cognitive functions. Therefore, if your BDNF is low there may be the potential for specific diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, neurotransmitter dysfunction, obesity, and depression. BDNF is considered a major player in slowing the aging process of the nervous system.
An overview of BDNF provides a greater appreciation of why this “Factor” is getting so much attention.
In the peripheral and central neurons, neurotrophins are important regulators for survival, differentiation, and maintenance of nerve cells. They are small proteins that secrete into the nervous system to help keep nerve cells alive, and are able to develop new cell growth(neurogenesis). Neurogenesis is important as an anti-aging component of the neuron. While neurogenesis is predominant during prenatal development, there is ongoing new cell growth throughout the life span occurring in the hippocampus region of the brain. The hippocampus is an area responsible for memory, learning and emotions.
In addition to exercise, researchers have also found that enriched learning environments can also help contribute to the survival and integration of new brain cells.
There are self care strategies that you can implement into your daily health practice. These practices include do’s and do not’s at many levels of a healthy lifestyle that benefit Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor.
Exercise elevates BDNF levels
Research supports that neurotrophic factor(BDNF) is elevated with exercise of varied intensity, and when combined with cognitive activities during exercise.
Further research demonstrates BDNF found to suppress appetite and control burning of fat.
Exercise induces BDNF, which grows new neurons. BDNF now found to suppress appetite and control the burning of fat! http://t.co/Owj5u1cEkJ
— Dr. Rhonda Patrick (@foundmyfitness) June 15, 2015
What you eat can lower BDNF levels
There are “avoid foods” that effect healthy BDNF levels. These foods include:
- Processed food
- High Fructose Corn syrup
Eliminating foods in your diet that are anti-inflammatory have positive influences on neurotrophic factors and healthy gut microbiome. This creates the gut-brain axis.
What You Eat can to elevate BDNF levels
There are foods that can be included in your diet that increase support of increasing BDNF:
- Resveratrol(red grapes)
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids that specifically come from Cold water, oily fish such as wild salmon can boost brain function and BDNF levels.
Intermittent fasting, caloric restriction and elevated BDNF levels
Recent research demonstrated BDNF levels are elevated by reduced caloric intake and intermittent fasting. The influences of intermittent fasting include heat shock proteins, hormonal changes and neurotrophic factors that impact neuronal plasticity. The benefits of daily caloric restriction, while maintaining macronutrient quality(vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals, antioxidants), include injury recovery and resistance to aging.r
Anxiety and Stress Disorders show lower BDNF levels
The ability to manage stress in your life has significant benefits of elevating BDNF and regulate the hippocampus and neurogenesis. There are a few ways stress can be successfully managed:
- Ensuring adequate quantity of sleep can maintain elevated BDNF levels.
- Meditation has positive effects on stress reduction, BDNF levels, and telemere length
- Positive psychology and the benefits of healthy relationships have higher BDNF levels.
The role of Brain-Derived Neurogenic Factor plays a significant role in regulating brain neurotrophins. The regulation of BDNF impacts emotional control of anxiety and depression, appetite and metabolism, and can be influenced by exercise, diet and how stress is managed in your day to day lifestyle.
Resources for Brain Health
Also published on Medium.