Thursday, November 30, 2006


Our language can dictate our perceptions. When I consider the huge aging population in this country, I see a wealth of minds, full of experiences and lifetimes of learning. Are we ready to apply this treasure to the challenges which lie ahead? I'd like to propose a possible new meaning to the phrase "senior moment." I'd like to call that moment of "aha," when a gestalt has emerged, the true senior moment.

What do you think?

Keep it up,

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dendrite Growth and the Internet

ACTIVATE: With these blogs and my upcoming manual for brain health, I want to help you understand how much you can do – and how fun and satisfying it can be – to keep your brain in a generative state throughout your entire life. To Activate is to trigger your neurons to grow. Until less than twenty years ago, it was thought that this was not even possible. Now we know the brain responds to certain kinds of demands by growing dendrites. This activity can offset other effects of aging, such as the decrease in the neurotransmitters necessary for thought – a cognitive decline which actually begins around the age of 25!

When you reach for understanding, such as learning a new language, a new instrument, or switching from PC to Mac (who’s doing that?!!) – you trigger dendrite growth. Reaching for connection in your community is another excellent way to generate more brain power.

Computer software programs, and the exponentially increasing forms of connection on the internet, are similar to our brain’s “outreach.” The unrelenting demand by consumers for more connectivity, more flexibility, more innovation, more accessibility, and more novelty are precisely the kinds of demands we can make on our brains in order to keep those dendrites expanding in complexity and length.

What would you like to reach for in your life?

Be well,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Focus on Fish Oil

There are three big players in achieving the desired brain states which allow for sharp mental function, a sense of ease and well-being, and fluid access to memory. They are:

Blood glucose
Omega-3 balance

If you asked me what one thing I would most recommend for restoring and maintaining brain health, I would answer FISH OIL. Hands down.

Fish oil is extensively studied, readily available, and safe. Concerns about mercury and other contaminants are much less with the small fishes used for fish oil. The best sources come from anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. The main goal with consuming fish oil is to balance our Omega 6 fat intake with Omega 3.

NOTE: Flax oil appears to have the same benefit as fish oil, however, it is far less extensively studied.

What’s with those Omega 3 fats? Here are some facts:

Omega-3 alters brain cell structure and the ability to messages to get through with high-powered transmission.

DHA is like DSL for the brain.

Americans have among the lowest blood levels of DHA in the world.

Evidence suggests that DHA-type fish oil helps regulate serotonin, the neurotransmitter known for its “feel-good” qualities. Depressed persons often have low levels of serotonin, and almost always have low levels of DHA.

Taking fish oil has been proven to be as effective as consuming fish. Bipolar patients improved on fish oil and stayed well on a high intake. It also works very quickly, with improvement often showing within a week or two.

Dr. Andrew Stoll, psychopharmacologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, executed most of the studies on fish and flaxseed oils and mental illnesses. He believes fish oil mimics the activity of drugs such as lithium and valproate, blocking the recycling of so-called second messengers that can cause havoc inside cells.

Researchers theorize that individuals suffering from schizophrenia or ADD have an enzyme disorder blocking the needed enzyme delta-6 desaturase. This enzyme is required to turn on the precursors that supply essential fatty acids. They must have larger amounts of omega-3 in order to experience its benefits. Brain imagery has shown that the brains of people with dyslexia do not break down fatty acids and incorporate them into their neuronal membranes the way non-dyslexics do. In short, there appears to be a biological basis for dyslexia. Fish oil has been shown to alleviate the frustrations of dyslexia in studies using fish oil on patients with ADD.

ADDED BENEFIT: By diminishing stress hormones, these oils also diminish heart disease.

The recommended dose is five grams per day. Taking it at night cuts down on the aftertaste.

SMARTEST FISH, or Fish with the most “smart fats”

Mackerel 1.4 grams of DHA in 3.5 oz raw or canned
Herring 1.0
Sardines 1.0
Anchovy 0.9
Tuna, bluefin 0.9
Whitefish 0.9
Sablefish 0.9
Bluefish 0.8
Salmon 0.8
Lake trout 0.5

Cod, catfish, flounder, grouper, haddock, perch, snapper, sole, swordfish and shellfish contain very little omega-3. Average 0.1 to 0.2 grams DHA per 100 grams fish.

Fish oil!! I have experienced a marked improvement in my sense of well-being after adding fish oil to my diet. When I first learned about the importance of DHA to mental health and well-being, I started taking a high-quality fish oil supplement, and consuming anchovies and sardines as well. Most people I speak with do not want these salty fish in their diet. For those of you who enjoy anchovies, however, I highly recommend experimenting with a couple of anchovies in a homemade “fish taco.” I use fresh lettuce and cabbage, some black beans, and a good fresh salsa to compliment the anchovies.

That wild salmon steak or fillet is also an excellent source of DHA. Reference the chart above for more ideas about getting your all-important intake of fish oils.

Joy and blessings,

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who's Doing The Whispering?

Brain Whisperers include folks from many aspects of brain health, such as researchers and scientists, physicians and other health professionals, authors, educators, and the media.

Here at The Brain Whisperers I will be reviewing relevant books, products such as supplements and brain boosting exercises, and providing an online location for you to get the information you need in your own pursuit of brain health throughout the years.

On the agenda are reviews of Dr. Brizendine's new book, "The Female Brain," Dr. Singh Khalsa's book "Brain Longevity," Dr. Katz's book "Keep Your Brain Alive," and others. Is there a book you'd like to see reviewed? Feel free to email me with your questions and concerns at

I will also be providing information about how to "activate." This is my term for a group of lifestyle choices designed to strengthen and empower your brain so that you have access to all that your miraculous brain can provide. This includes a fantastic memory, lots of feel-good brain chemicals, and a sharp mind which truly reflects the years of learning and life experience you have accumulated.

Those of us in the second half of life, as it is sometimes called, have a special gift for the culture. We have our unique path and the experiences it brought us, to integrate into the ongoing innovation of our culture. I would like to provide you wtih the tools to utilize the entire gift of that magnificent organ between your ears!

Let me know if there are topics you would like to see covered.

Be well, in Joy and blessings,
Suzanna Stinnett

Sunday, November 26, 2006


CoQ10 has been studied for over 40 years and the results are consistently spectacular. Daily use of CoQ10 may be one of the most effective things a person can do to protect heart, brain, and all the body’s cells from the effects of aging and toxins in the diet and environment.

Lester Packer, Ph.D., University of Southern California, refers to CoQ10 as the cellular spark plug. This antioxidant triggers our cells to produce energy, causing the mitochondria within the cell to release adenosine triphosphate, the fuel for all cell activity. When cells fall short of CoQ10, they become sluggish and unhealthy.

Shortages of CoQ10 are more of an issue as we age. Taking statins further reduce the cell’s CoQ10. Muscle pain and weakness are some of the possible results of a lack of CoQ10, as every cell and system is distressed by this shortage.

The brain is especially compromised by the deficit. Noticeable problems are memory decline and learning disabilities. The brain may also become more vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Safety and Dosages:
CoQ10 is considered to be very safe. Reports of mild GI symptoms are reported in less than one percent of users. Pregnant and lactating women are advised not to take CoQ10, not because of any reported symptoms, but due to the lack of evidence of safety for the fetus or baby. Some research may have shown CoQ10 can lower anticoagulant effects of coumadin. Coumadin can be monitored and adjusted if this is an issue.

Different forms of CoQ10 have very different levels of effectiveness. The more absorbable CoQ10 is also more expensive to buy, but it is much more efficient. Taking CoQ10 with meals or a little fat such as olive oil or peanut butter increases its absorption.

Dosages range from 10 mg per day for preventative use to as much as 400 mg per day for people fighting cancer. An average person would benefit from 100 mg per day.

Availability and Reviews:
The company Vitaline has been involved in many studies of its CoQ10. Absorption is key, and Vitaline’s product seems superior to many others on the market. I recommend reading about this supplement on their website, at This will inform you as to how to evaluate the different forms of CoQ10 whether you are buying online or at your local stores. I tested Vitaline’s chewable CoQ10 and found it to be excellent. Another product I have used is Jarrow’s capsule CoQ10. Because I have had cancer, I prefer the 100 mg capsules. I take one to three of these daily.

For more information on the research conducted on coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, I recommend looking at the Life Extension website under “Abstracts.” While the US medical establishment remains slow to embrace these scientific findings, other countries including Japan do not hesitate to recommend CoQ10 as a safe, effective, and important form of cellular support.

Be well,
Suzanna Stinnett

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Developmental Disabilities – Our Brains – Our Foods – The Connection

In a recent conversation, a friend asked me why I pay the high price for organic foods. “Is it because you’ve had cancer?” she queried, “I can’t afford to buy every food organic all the time, so I just never got in the habit. How do you sort out when to buy organic? Does it really make that much difference?”

There are several reasons to consider switching your food choices to organic, whenever your budget and the local options allow. The benefit of eating these organic foods is only one reason. By supporting the organics industry, you also contribute positively to a serious, and seriously overlooked, environmental problem of our times. Chemicals in our environment, whether used directly in the production of foods, or polluting our environment in other ways, are putting our brains at risk. At the very least, supporting the organic foods industry places you on the positive side of this crucial equation.

Industrial Chemicals and Brain Development
(See “Developmental Neurotoxicity of Industrial Chemicals” The Lancet, November 8, 2006)

I have been following the news about chemicals used in manufacturing of all kinds, as well as in growing and processing our foods, for over thirty years. Recent information of importance to us all comes from researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The paper was named “A Silent Pandemic: Industrial Chemicals Are Impairing the Brain Development of Children Worldwide.”

The paper reports the striking statistic that one out of every six children has a developmental disability, usually involving the nervous system. Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), include autism, attention deficit disorder, and mental retardation. "Even if substantial documentation on their toxicity is available, most chemicals are not regulated to protect the developing brain," says Grandjean. "Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled with the purpose of protecting children. The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the fetus or a small child." At present in the U.S., requirements for toxicity testing of chemicals are inadequate.
Other consequences from chemical exposures to developing brains include shortened attention spans, slowed motor coordination and heightened aggressiveness, along with increased risk of Parkinson’s later in life.

I want to give my body its best chance for continued health, and I consider organic foods to be an important part of that objective. When I buy organic foods or foods from a transitional farm (on their way to passing the strict organic certification), I vote. I make the statement that I do not want our environment, and the developing brains of our children, polluted. In this way the consumer functions as a kind of regulatory agency. This is a great use of our brains!
Be well,

To learn more about buying organics and overall impact, an excellent article can be found at
For more information about industrial chemicals and toxic effects on brain development, go to:
To see information about toxins in newborns, see the Environmental Working Group’s site at
If you know of families with children with an autism spectrum disorder, you might let them know about an autism study at

Friday, November 24, 2006

Got Brain Function?
Today is the Day After Thanksgiving

For the millions of Americans who have consumed at least one healthy serving of turkey in the last 24 hours, the common understanding is this: Turkey makes you sleepy. Perhaps even lethargic. All that turkey. On Thanksgiving.

“It’s the TRIP-TOE-FAN,” little Jimmy yells, a brain expert at age 10. But is it?

At the coffeehouse in North Beach this morning, I sipped my espresso and waited for that neural surge so familiar in my writer’s day. The surge was more like a dribble. I glanced across the table and asked Tom Whelan if he was “turkeyed out.”

Tom, the publisher of the North Beach Aquarium, said, “I do all right with the turkey. It’s the sugar that gets me.” He stared out the window at the sunlit sidewalk for a moment, looking a bit glazed. I appreciated that comment. It reminded me that I had consumed far more sugars and starches than turkey. What was the real impact of the tryptophan?

Tryptophan, or L-tryptophan, the amino acid we have come to know as the sleep agent in our holiday turkey, is the metabolic precursor of the neurotransmitter in our brains, serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for that sleepy feeling.

L-tryptophan is particularly plentiful in chocolate, oats, bananas, dates, milk, cottage cheese, peanuts and many meats including turkey, lamb, beef, and fish. In turkey, you’re getting about 100 mg of tryptophan per ounce of meat. And it’s the least abundant amino acid in the diet.

In order for the L-T to actually produce noticeable drowsiness, it would have to be taken on an empty stomach with no other proteins or amino acids. Not exactly the scenario most of us experienced yesterday.

Let’s look at what is actually happening. Think back, if you have enough neurons firing, to your consumption around the Thanksgiving meal. I’ll take a stab at an average picture of the day, with some details from my own experience. The group gathering for dinner brought in a few family recipes for side dishes and desserts, and maybe a fondly remembered cocktail or appetizer to boot. Appetizers include chips and salsa, two or three kinds of cheese, crackers, olives, some cut vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Start the festivities with a round of champagne. While we’re getting the serious meal ready, we’re having the equivalent of a light lunch along the way. Move from the champagne on to a couple of beers while watching a bit of football, and then it’s time to break out the wine. Our group enjoyed a drink we call “Passion Kitty,” made with vodka, soda, ginger ale, passion fruit juice and lime.

Then the serious feasting unfolds. Typical dishes alongside the beautifully roasted turkey are yams, mashed potatoes, stuffing, lots of gravy, cranberry in proximity to various concoctions of jello and whipped cream, any number of vegetable side dishes and salads, hot rolls with butter, and more wine. When you have ten or more items to “taste,” small servings don’t mean a whole lot. The plate weighs about two pounds. Stay seated.

After eating and drinking and “mmm-ing” for a couple of hours or more, the dishes are gathered from the table. People move slowly, holding bellies and groaning. Those family desserts are looming. “Not now,” the host says, heading for the recliner.

Yeah, that turkey sure has done a number on us.

I’m looking at the sugars I consumed yesterday. From the alcohol to the starchy carbs to the pure sugars, my blood glucose was at high tide. These sugars are what I’m feeling today. It’s a glucose hangover, plain and simple.

Enjoy your leftover turkey. You’re getting some good stuff with that tryptophan. Serotonin contributes to stable moods and contentment. Relax, digest, and melt into the relaxation with family and friends.