“Overall, Braverman recommends a high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat diet packed with foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. He prescribes tea, spices with every meal, yogurt and whole grains….”
The “Younger (Thinner) You Diet” is based on the premise that body weight and aging are tightly bound. “Your excess weight is your aging brain’s cry for help,” writes Dr. Braverman, who runs a private practice (the Place for Achieving Total Health, or PATH) in New York and is clinical professor of integrative medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. The aging brain he describes is characterized by low levels of the key nerve cell-signaling chemicals dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA and serotonin, deficiencies he asserts can be remedied with the right foods.
The book is packed with meal plans, shopping lists and recipes for boosting blood chemicals: acetylcholine-boosting frittata, dopamine-boosting scrambled eggs, GABA-boosting salad, serotonin-boosting tofu and total-brain-chemical-boosting lamb tagine. The dishes don’t include the chemicals themselves but the building blocks needed to make them, such as the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine, precursors to dopamine; and choline, the B vitamin from which acetylcholine is made.
Braverman also provides advice on how to reverse what he refers to as the “pauses,” the physiological changes associated with the aging of the body’s organs. To make an aging heart younger, he recommends low-sodium, high-fiber foods, complex carbohydrates and foods that provide omega-3 fats. For osteopause he advises foods rich in calcium; for menopause, foods high in vitamin D.
Overall, Braverman recommends a high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat diet packed with foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. He prescribes tea, spices with every meal, yogurt and whole grains.
This is all fairly sound dietary advice, but the justifications are sometimes slim: He promotes nutmeg as an antidepressant, for example, although the only evidence for the claim comes from a single study in mice.
As for Braverman’s claims about brain chemistry, scientists in the 1970s and 1980s began to demonstrate a link between diet and brain neurotransmitter levels. Since then, researchers have, in fact, shown that levels of brain chemicals, such as dopamine, can become depleted with age; they’ve also linked obesity with deficiencies in certain brain chemicals. Braverman cites such studies, but for proof that his regimen works he points to the successes of his patients, whose cases are reported throughout the book. With supposedly brain-chemical-boosting dietary changes and exercise plans, the profiled patients reportedly shed pounds, gained energy and improved their life outlook. But these stories are case reports, not formal scientific studies. Whether people improved because of better brain chemistry, and whether they’ll live longer as a result, is any scientist’s guess.