Neurogenesis and Brain Health with Dr. Brant Cortright- EP019

 In Podcast

This is your brain. This is your brain on a modern Western diet.




The brain is truly an incredible instrument. We exist at different levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – and our brain integrates all of those aspects into a single experience. But we don’t invest much time in thinking about the health of our brain, and most of us don’t have a clue how our diet affects the development of new brain cells, known as neurogenesis.

Dr. Brant Cortright is a Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice with a holistic, neuroscience-informed approach to therapy. He is an expert in the area of neurogenesis and brain health and a consultant on stress, anxiety and depression as well as relationship and intimacy issues.

The author of three books, Dr. Brant is a highly regarded speaker and presenter in the US, Europe and Asia. Today he explains the basics of neurogenesis, how nutrition impacts the rate of neurogenesis, and the best type of exercise for brain health. Listen in to understand why the modern Western diet is a disaster for your brain, and what to do to reverse its adverse effects!

Topics Covered

[1:00] The fundamentals of neurogenesis

  • Process of making new brain cells
  • Continues throughout lifetime
  • Low rates associated with anxiety, depression and cognitive decline
  • High rates associated with robust emotional resilience, rapid learning
  • Can increase by five times with holistic approach
[2:58] How to boost your rate of neurogenesis

  • Exercise and nutrition are key components
  • Diet must include good, high quality fats (brain is 60% fat)
  • Consume low to moderate levels of carbohydrates (convert to glucose and cause insulin resistance)
  • Cognitive decline and increased blood sugar levels track together (hemoglobin A1c below 5.0)
  • Reverse insulin resistance with fiber (non-starchy vegetables), healthy fats
  • Consume moderate levels of protein
  • Avoid sugar (cuts rate of neurogenesis in half)
  • Become fat-adapted by removing all carbs for four weeks, then slowly reintroducing to find appropriate level
  • Omega-3 fatty acid DHA is single most important nutrient for brain
  • Look for molecularly distilled fish oil to get 3-5 grams of DHA per day
[16:41] The appropriate ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6

  • 1:1 or 2:1 (more Omega-3 than Omega-6)
  • Modern diet is anywhere from 1:20 to 1:15 (highly inflammatory)
  • Avoid vegetable oils (except olive oil and avocado oil)
  • Don’t cook with vegetable oil (oxidizes rapidly)
  • Focus on good saturated fat, mono-unsaturated fat
  • Limit Omega-6 and avoid trans fats
  • Eat grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, pastured chicken, grass-fed dairy
  • Consume nuts, avocados, eggs (cooked at low temp)
[20:16] Why you shouldn’t cook with olive oil

  • Oxidizes rapidly at high temperature, causes heart disease and hardening of arteries
  • Choose coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard or avocado oil instead
[21:30] Considerations for fish oil supplements

  • Store at cool temp (heat and light oxidize fats)
  • 50/50 EPA to DHA or higher
  • Brant recommends Nordic Naturals DHA Xtra (1:3 EPA to DHA)
  • 2 grams of molecularly distilled DHA daily
[23:22] Dr. Brant’s other recommendations around nutrition

  • Most of plate should be non-starchy vegetables (fiber)
  • Feed microbiome to maintain good health
  • 50-80% of diet should be good fats
  • Turmeric has profound effect on neurogenesis, but doesn’t absorb well straight
  • Try with phospholipids, piperine or micronized (eight times the absorption)
  • Look for caffeine free green tea extracts (98% EGCg)
  • Hesperidin keeps new neurons alive (close to 100% survival rate)
  • Hesperidin methyl chalcone is best (5-7 times more bioavailable)
[29:59] The best type of exercise for brain health

  • Sustained aerobic exercise (20-50 minutes) is Miracle Grow for brain
  • Should be a little out of breath
  • Most important thing you can do to improve cognitive enhancement, protect from anxiety and increase neurogenesis
[33:13] The value of lifelong learning

  • ‘Use it or lose it’ applies to brain
  • Read, write and learn new things (i.e.: cooking class, webinar, podcast)
  • Increased neurogenesis builds cognitive reserve, protects against Alzheimer’s (growing epidemic)
[38:46] Dr. Brant’s best advice about brain health

  • Taking care of brain is Job #1
  • Can increase rate of neurogenesis to 95-100% capacity

Learn More About Dr. Brant Cortright

The Neurogenesis Diet and Lifestyle: Upgrade Your Brain, Upgrade Your Life by Dr. Brant Cortright

Resources Mentioned

Nordic Naturals DHA Xtra

Doctor’s Best Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone

Lisa Genova TED Talk

Buck Institute Alzheimer’s Trial




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