There’s a tiny part of your brain called the hypothalamus that’s about as large as a pebble or a pea, yet it’s a real-life illustration of the term “small but mighty.” That’s because the hypothalamus plays a big role in your overall health and even dictates your chances of living to a ripe old age.
Read on to discover how you can promote healthy function of this all-important part of your brain to help ensure better health and a longer life.
The hypothalamus is a very busy place. Neurons in the hypothalamus stimulate the action of the smooth muscles that line the walls of blood vessels, the stomach, and the intestines, as well as receive sensory feedback from each of those parts of the body. The hypothalamus also controls your heart rate, how fast food goes through your digestive tract, and your bladder’s contractions. Not to mention it plays a role in levels of your body’s hormones.
In other words, changes in this part of the brain are key to how you feel on a daily basis. For example, the hypothalamus is involved in how well you sleep and deal with stress. And when inflammation in the hypothalamus increases as you get older, that inflammation may speed up the aches and pains, sleeplessness and illnesses that plague older people.
So, to keep your body as healthy as possible as you age, promoting the proper functioning of your hypothalamus is crucial. Fortunately, new discoveries by medical researchers point to how you can do just that.
Keeping The Hypothalamus In Balance
Researchers recently discovered that the function of the hypothalamus can falter when it doesn’t get enough of a protein called Menin.
Menin is a protein that’s believed to play an important role in the development of brain cells as well as protecting them from stress, injury, and damage. Researchers believe Menin’s protective effects are the result of its involvement in cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, and DNA repair mechanisms.
As with many important compounds in the body, levels of Menin usually drop as we get older. That decline leads to increased hypothalamic inflammation which in turn leads to a higher level of age-related problems in the body.1 Included in those problems are brain issues that start messing up your thinking and memory.
Reduction In Menin Means
An Increase in Aging
In laboratory tests, scientists found that the drop in Menin in the hypothalamus also weakens your bones and makes your skin lose its thickness and resiliency – causing your skin to look wrinkled and lifeless.
Nobody is sure exactly how the hypothalamus causes that to happen, but it does. And to top it all off, that loss of Menin also leads to a lower life expectancy.
And the news gets worse – the drop in Menin coincides with a drop in the amino acid D-serine, a neurotransmitter that helps support the brain’s neuroplasticity – a process that enables us to learn new information and skills.
According to researcher Lige Leng, PhD, “We speculate that the decline of Menin expression in the hypothalamus with age may be one of the driving factors of aging, and Menin may be the key protein connecting the genetic, inflammatory, and metabolic factors of aging.”
Dr. Leng thinks that supplementing with D-serine might be able to offset some of the decline in Menin. Other tests at his lab demonstrate that supplementing with D-serine can improve brain function with better cognition, learning and balance. In these tests, D-serine also supported better bone strength and younger-looking skin.
Plus, a variety of studies by other researchers shows the value of D-serine. Studies in France and Canada have confirmed that a drop in your D-serine level can speed aging.2,3
Overeating can overwhelm the hypothalamus
If you want your hypothalamus to help you age better, one of the first steps you can take is to avoid eating huge amounts of food. Especially if you lean toward heavy consumption of fast food and junk food.
When you eat overly large amounts of food day after day, experts call this dietary habit not just overeating, but “overnutrition.”
Ironically, analyses show that overnutrition is also usually linked to malnutrition. Even though so many people are eating large amounts of food, they’re not consuming all the nutrients they need to be healthy. They’re over-indulging in processed foods that have been stripped of the crucial phytochemicals that fruits and vegetables contain. So, they are filling themselves with unhealthy, highly processed fats and sugar.
Stop eating sugar, save your brain
Some of the dangers of consuming large amounts of sugar are revealed by research in Europe that demonstrates how all those sugar calories cause the hypothalamus to become inflamed, which leads neurons in this part of the brain to malfunction.4
But there’s good news. These researchers report that cutting back on sugar not only helps your hypothalamus to get back on track, but it may help ease some of the symptoms of both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Other ways to keep your hypothalamus from speeding up the aging process include:
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and drink green tea which all contain natural compounds called polyphenols: Research in South Africa demonstrates that polyphenols can counter inflammation in the hypothalamus.5 Some of the foods richest in polyphenols include pomegranate, blueberries, grapes, and apples. In addition, nuts and dark chocolate are also rich sources of polyphenols.
- Keep your stress under control with things like exercise and meditation: A study in Germany that involved people aged 35 to 65 shows that chronic stress is linked to unhealthy structural changes in the hypothalamus.6 On the other hand, research in Asia indicates that exercise can offset these changes and help maintain a better functioning hypothalamus.7
- Eat a Mediterranean Diet: A study in 2019 showed that eating an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean Diet can help fight oxidative stress in the brain that damages the hypothalamus.8
- Eat more chromium: The mineral chromium is critical for the health of your hypothalamus. That’s because it supports the release and regulation of neurotransmitters that are involved in mood and memory health. Foods such as broccoli, garlic, beans, basil, and potatoes are among those rich in chromium.
The hypothalamus may be tiny, but, as they say, “Good things come in small packages.”
If you can adopt a lifestyle that helps your itsy-bitsy hypothalamus do a better job, it may make a humongous difference in helping you age more slowly and more healthfully.
The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team