3 Ways to Eat, Sleep, and Gargle Your Way to a Better Brain

Stay sharp with these simple, scientifically proven techniques.

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Eat: Less Fake Butter

Whether spread on a bagel or poured over movie popcorn, many butter substitutes and flavorings contain diacetyl-based chemicals, which may harm brain cells. Diacetyl promotes the protein clumps in the brain that mark Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists at the University of Minnesota. Researcher Ashish Vartak, PhD, says that the study is preliminary, but he and his colleagues have started avoiding diacetyl by snacking on unflavored popcorn (they add salt or herbs). As for movie popcorn: “Ordering it without the added buttery liquid should reduce diacetyl exposure.”

Gargle: with Lemonade

A new study finds that sweet liquids boost resolve. The upside (for dieters): You don’t have to swallow them. A University of Georgia study has found that rinsing the mouth with sugar-sweetened lemonade helped students perform better on tests of willpower. “Researchers used to think the sugar had to enter the body to give you the energy for self-control,” said University of Georgia psychology professor Leonard Martin, coauthor of the study. But just holding the sugar in the mouth apparently signals
the brain’s motivational centers to pay attention.

Sleep: Seven Hours

Getting too much sleep may be just as toxic to health as sleeping too little. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston examined more than 20 years of data from over 15,000 participants in the Nurse’s Health Study and found that regularly sleeping two hours more or less than seven hours a night was equivalent to two years of brain aging (as measured on standard memory tests). The cognitive effects were also present when the women’s sleep habits changed by two hours a night or more as they got older.

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