Does The Modern Diet Kill Cognitive Performance?
After a recent conversation with a friend on the state of men in the west, and the correlation between low testosterone, physical weakness and liberalism, the topic came up of whether or not it also has an affect on cognitive performance. I took it upon myself to research the subject further.
The question being: Does the the testosterone destroying, estrogenic, diet of modern society make you less intelligent and less successful? Let's find out!
It's been long established that not having enough testosterone makes you tired and lethargic, low energy, this is no doubt going to affect performance in all areas and has been shown to do as such. It's also well established that low testosterone is going to cause physical weakness as you simple cannot produce and maintain muscle to the same degree as a healthy high testosterone male.
So right off the bat we can begin to speculate, however speculation isn't exactly scientific or difinitive now is it...
In order to reach an accurate conclusion we must examine whether testosterone also has an effect on the brain and/or the brains cognitive ability. Does testosterone have a direct effect on cognitive function? How about short term and long term memory? What about the ability of the brain to learn and produce new neurons?
As it so happens I quickly discovered there have been a significant number of studies on this issue, which makes our job a hell of a lot easier as we don't have to do any testing ourselves! We can merely examine studies for the validity of methods they employed to gather data, the quality of data sets used and their adherence to the scientific method. Then analyse the results of those studies to reach a conclusion.
The first thing we'll look at is testosterone and cognitive function. (This essentially means your ability to think about complex ideas and solve difficult problems.)
I researched a number of studies on this particular question, and found one in particular by Dr Olivier Beauchet from the French, Saint-Etienne University Hospital published in 2006 which showed a small correlation between low levels of endogenous testosterone and poor performance in otherwise healthy older men.
They employed placebo controlled studies, which showed somewhat mixed results, however they did indicate that generally speaking testosterone substitution had positive effects on cognitive performance. This is likely based on the neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects of testosterone.
The study stated: "In the brain, testosterone can be metabolized to dihydrotestosterone and bind to androgen receptors, or it can be converted to oestradiol by the enzyme aromatase. Both aromatase and androgen receptors are found in key regions in the brain involved in memory and learning, including the hippocampus and amygdala (14). Testosterone has been shown to increase concentrations of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the hippocampus and upregulate NGF receptors in the forebrain."
Additional studies on men that have undergone castration (usually as cancer treatment) and therefore reduced testosterone have shown impaired motor function, attention, and memory recall following treatment. This evidence seems to suggest that testosterone likely has an effect on cognitive performance.
A later study in 2014 compared a population of Bolivian men and tested the correlation between testosterone levels and memory recall, both in terms of short term recall and long term recall, as well as spacial cognitive performance. The results found a positive correlation between testosterone and all of the aforementioned cognitive performance factors.
Further research turned up a plethora of other studies demonstrating a relationship between testosterone levels and cognitive performance, especially in aging populations. Not to mention over 14 studies which showed that higher testosterone levels correlated with lower risks of neurological diseases like Alzheimers.
Taken together, it seems undeniable that healthy hormone levels play an important role in cognitive health and performance. And I believe any expert with an understanding of how hormones affect mood and behavior would agree with this conclusion.
This leads us to the next logical question, which is "How do you maintain healthy testosterone levels". The answer to which lies primarily in diet.
It's well known the modern diet is extremely unhealthy, the food pyramid is backwards and the additives and ingredients used in most mass produced food could hardly be worse. However there are certain testosterone destroying foods you can avoid with very little effort, such as the notorious soy bean, and a number of others you can incorporate into your diet in order to help naturally boost your hormone levels (and provide a lot of healthy nutrients for your body to use in other areas).
To start with, one of the most important things you can do is avoid these foods that are known to kill your testosterone levels. The other thing you can do is improve your exercise regime, I recommend exercising with weights at least 3x a week, preferably first thing in the morning. It's a great way to start your day and ensure you remain in good health.
You don't have to be jacked like a body builder to be healthy, I never have been as it's never been a priority of mine, however I am fit and can meet military fitness standards which I consider a standard all men should set for themselves.
Those standards are as follows:
- 44 pushups in 2 minutes.
- 50 situps in 2 minutes.
- 2km run in 10 minutes 30 seconds.
The best thing you can do for your longevity and quality of life is hold yourself to a minimum fitness level, eat well, and avoid foods that damage your health and make sure you hydrate well. This is not a particularly hard standard to meet, and should be easily achievable with a little training if you are under 40.
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And make sure your life is an experience worth living.
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