Publication date: Jan 11, 2020
The proteins responsible for regulating these processes of cell birth and cell death in the brain are known as neurotrophic factors (or neurotrophins), one of which is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
While it is not clear at this time if increasing BDNF levels can reverse or prevent neurodegenerative conditions, normal levels of BDNF are typically associated with better cognitive performances and overall brain function in individuals with the conditions noted above.
Research has found that several factors, particularly obesity, may influence BDNF levels-obese individuals have lower BDNF levels while non-obese individuals have higher BDNF levels.
A study published in 2011 found that three weeks of high-intensity cycling and five weeks of aerobic exercise improved cognitive functioning and increased levels of BDNF.
Yet another study found that BDNF levels increased with aerobic exercise and that this corresponded with an increase in hippocampal volume by 2 percent.
On top of helping to combat obesity and increase BDNF, thereby improving overall brain function, these studies suggest that exercise can be especially beneficial to memory.
Taken in conjunction, such dietary habits can lead to obesity, which, as noted above, can negatively impact BDNF levels and overall cognitive health.
Additionally, diets that are high in processed sugars and saturated fats can affect neurotrophin levels, including BDNF levels, which in turn can lead to a reduction in hippocampal volume and neuroplasticity.
Social engagement appears to also affect BDNF levels, particularly in developing brains.
The study discovered that mice raised in a communal nest had significantly increased neurotrophin levels in several brain areas, particularly the hippocampus and hypothalamus, even later in life.
Ultimately, the best way to increase BDNF levels is to adopt a healthier overall lifestyle that can also contribute positively to one’s mental health and cardiovascular health, while also reducing one’s level of body fat.
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