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Eating for Your Brain with Dr. Lisa Mosconi

Dr. Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC)/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where she was recruited as an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in Neurology. She also is an adjunct faculty member at the Department of Psychiatry at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, at the Department of Nutrition at NYU Steinhardt School of Nutrition and Public Health, and at the Departments of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University of Florence (Italy).

Dr. Mosconi holds a Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience and Nuclear Medicine and is a certified Integrative Nutritionist and holistic healthcare practitioner.

How do you have better focus? How do you improve your memory? How do you improve your thinking ability? What are the best foods for your brain?

What you eat matters, especially for your gray matter. And who better to have this discussion with than Dr. Lisa Mosconi? She’s the author of an incredible book called, Brain Food, a must-read for anyone interested in having a healthy and powerful brain. Her research is well known regarding the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease in at-risk individuals using brain imaging techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). She is passionately interested in how the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease can be mitigated, if not prevented through the combination of appropriate medical care and lifestyle modifications involving diet, nutrition, physical and intellectual fitness.

In this episode, we’re taking you to the kitchen and share with you foods you can eat right now to boost your brain health and the foods you should avoid.

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"Brain aging is more diet than destiny."

Lisa Mosconi

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  • Drink water! The brain is 80% water, even just a 2-4% water loss in the brain is enough to produce fatigue, confusion, dizziness, memory lapses, difficulties sleeping, difficulty concentrating.
  • Warm water is the best way to rehydrate—vasodilating, promotes absorption into the body (cold water is more constricting).


  • You can check out the two MRI brain scan images we’re talking about in our Kwik Brain video here.
  • On these scans the brain looks white and grey, fluids look black.
  • 1st scan: 52 y.o woman, Mediterranean diet. ideally, have ventricles tight, have the brain fill up as much as possible of the cranial cavity—close as possible to the bone. Want the grey matter (hippocampus) to be close to the white matter. Ideal conditions for neurogenesis in adults.
  • 2nd scan: brain on the Western diet—burgers, fries, and the brain shows it. Ventricles are much larger, more fluids (black) around the entire brain. The temporal lobe and hippocampus are surrounded by black—meaning they are shrinking.
  • These symptoms are a red flag for Alzheimer’s later in life.


  • How much is genetics, how much is lifestyle? Brain aging is more diet than destiny.
  • When Lisa first started at college—everyone understood Alzheimer’s as the consequence as bad genes, aging or a combination of two.
  • Now, it’s universally accepted that neither of these are the case—genomics, brain imaging have helped improve understanding.
  • The 3 genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer’s are found in less than 1% of the population.
  • Only 6% of families affected by Alzheimer’s have these genetic mutations, 94% of patients with Alzheimer’s don’t have these mutations.
  • Genetics are not as deterministic as we thought — though they are still important, increase vulnerability.


  • Our brains are built on food—specific foods and nutrients.
  • Blood-brain barrier: shields brain, regulates the passage of substances to the brain.
  • Caviar: polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 3, protein, antioxidants, vitamins.
  • For vegetarians and vegans: almonds and flax seeds (need to grind them to release nutrients).
  • Types of fatty acids: DHA (the type your brain wants), EPA (precursor to DHA), and ALA in plant foods—your body needs to convert this to DHA, and in this process, 75% is lost.
  • Aim to intake 4g of DHA every day — 70% reduced the risk of dementia. This is about 3 ounces, a handful of almonds, extra-virgin olive oil.
  • If you’re on a vegetarian diet you’ll need to eat 3x this amount.
  • Vegan DHA supplements are available.


  • Anything processed—a combination of too much trans-saturated fat & cholesterol.
  • Increases risk of dementia: studies suggest people who eat 2g of trans saturated fat per day have twice the risk of dementia compared to people who eat less than 1g.
  • Harmful foods to avoid if possible: spreads (fake butter spreads), whipped creams, fake cheese, baked goods like muffins, cold cuts (deli ham etc.).
  • Red wine is a brain food due to the antioxidants — but drink in moderation, never on an empty stomach, and pair with fatty food to help absorb the nutrients.


  • Caloric restriction has positive effects on the brain — increase resilience.
  • Let your body have a break, let it detoxify—stop eating around 7pm and give yourself 12 hours until 7am before you start again.
  • The researcher mentioned: you can check out an example of Dr. Mattson’s research on caloric restriction at the NIH here.


  • What constitutes a healthy breakfast is subjective—depends on the individual.
  • Women may be predisposed to do better on carbs, men do better on fat.
  • Depending on what you prefer to eat, some ideas are toast with honey, fresh fruit, yogurt with fresh fruit.
  • Plan ahead and ensure you have some quick brain healthy snacks available.
  • Treat your brain like your best friend! And you’ll get all the rewards.


  • Screenshot this show and tell us what you’ve learned!
  • Don’t forget to tag us @dr_mosconi  and @jimkwik.

*** Please note, this episode is educational only and is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. ***


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